What is holistic primary care?

Understanding a patient’s complete medical profile is crucial to being able to treat that patient’s medical conditions effectively. For many patients, there may be other factors involved in their medical diagnosis, including their lifestyle, their family situation, or even their economic status. Outside issues such as stress can significantly impact a patient’s health status. Understanding these additional influences is a part of what makes up holistic primary care.

An article in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care, “Effective Factors in Providing Holistic Care: A Qualitative Study,” describes holistic care as “a behavior that recognizes a person as a whole and acknowledges the interdependence among one’s biological, social, psychological, and spiritual aspects.” Further, the article states that “holistic care includes a wide range of approaches, including medication, education, communication, self-help, and complementary treatment.”

Holistic primary care takes into consideration the patient’s complete profile and not just a medical diagnosis. The primary care physician must develop a relationship with the patient that includes asking questions and truly listening to the answers, to fully develop that comprehensive profile.

The patient is also a key player in holistic primary care. Patients who are given access to their electronic medical records (EHRs), for example, have the information they need to become engaged in their own healthcare plan. When they are encouraged to communicate with their primary care physician, to ask questions or to get clarification on diagnoses and instructions, they feel more empowered to be an active part of their own care.

Primary care physicians who take the time to understand the patient’s social, psychological, and spiritual life in addition to the biological information discovered during the visit are able to more effectively provide holistic primary care for that patient. The provider can take all of these factors into consideration and work with the patient on a healthcare plan that works based on that particular patient’s holistic profile.