Have you ever overeaten junk food and felt tired, sad, and sluggish? Or, on the other hand, have you powered through a challenging workout and experienced a rush of endorphins that leaves a smile on your face? Does a conversation with a friend when you’re sad give you a boost of energy?
If you said yes to any of these, you’ve felt the effects of whole person care—a concept of care encompassing physical and mental health care with lifestyle, social, and spiritual support. Practitioners of whole person care, also known as integrative medicine, believe good mental health can lead to better physical health and vice versa that’s building momentum in the healthcare community.
Traditional medicine versus whole person care
When you think about medical benefits and trips to the doctor, you’re thinking about traditional western or conventional medicine. Western medical practice includes a web of healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and psychiatrists who analyze, treat, and monitor disease symptoms. Traditional medicine professionals practice in private practices, medical centers, group practices, and labs and rely on medical research and clinical advances to prevent disease, cure symptoms, and help patients live longer healthier lives.1
Whole person care focuses on the individual and how their mental health, biological, behavioral, social history, and lifestyle affect health. Integrative health professionals—a key role in whole person care—believe health and disease are not separate entities, but that wellbeing is one state that can move in two different directions: toward good health or disease.2 Whole person care programs complement conventional medicine, including care that expands traditional medicine benefits and promotes health. Also supported by clinical research, whole person care is a way to blend conventional medicine with mental health, lifestyle, nutrition, and more for optimal outcomes.
Changing health care to include whole person care
Today’s healthcare environment is siloed. Hospitals, group practices, and larger organizations may bring physicians, pharmacists, and therapists together, but they also direct patients outside the organization for specialty care, mental health support, or other complementary services. Doctors may appreciate and suggest diet, exercise, or dietary help but leave patients to figure it out independently or with little additional help.
Thankfully, healthcare professionals have reacted positively to integrative medicine, and as demands increase, more U.S. hospitals integrate whole person care services into regular care. Academic medical centers may use integrative medicine clinics within their walls as an opportunity to conduct controlled trials that could further establish its benefits.3 This may look like hiring a wellness coach or massage therapist in a clinic, coordinating additional whole person care services at the point of care, or improving communication between entire care teams, from traditional practitioners to integrative health professionals.
Integrating mental health services with traditional medicine is another opportunity to improve whole person care, especially as mental health concerns spike. In 2020, 59.9 million Americans lived with any mental illness (AMI), but less than half received care for their conditions. The National Council for Behavioral Health found that 77% of counties in the US have severe shortages of mental health professionals. Offering easier access to mental health care, better insurance coverage for mental health services, and options for group coaching or self-guided support could make whole person care even more successful.4
Tips for establishing whole person care with your team
Unlike traditional medical therapies, including prescription medicine and clinic-based treatments, whole person care is more accessible and affordable for many employees. Workplaces can encourage the use of holistic care by offering acupuncture, massage, yoga, dietary supplements, and meditation benefits. Opting for digital mental health solutions like those provided through Uprise Health, can give employees access to wellness coaching, behavioral health coaching, group therapy, and more.
Other options include:
- Offering a flexible work schedule
- Planning health challenges to encourage physical activity
- Building paid mental health days into PTO schedules
- Assisting with healthy meal planning
- Providing stress management and resilience training
These care options can help employees discover positive lifestyle changes that may support overall wellbeing, help manage stress, and simplify managing a chronic illness.
Uprise Health’s support of whole person care
Good mental health is an important part of whole person care, and Uprise Health provides innovative technology-based solutions that offer a new approach to old problems in health care. Our digital platform is designed to help reduce stigma and increase member utilization, giving more employees the help they need. Learn more about our approach to care and see how Uprise Health can make a difference with your employees.