There is more than meets the eye when it comes to our health and that of our patients. We widely accept that humans consist of a mind, body, and soul, yet oftentimes as doctors we focus only on what we see physically. It’s time to step back and take a holistic approach to patient care, in which we treat patients beyond their physiological needs to improve their overall health and well-being.
Doctors and scientists are beginning to more fully understand the roles genetics and lifestyle play in our health, the interconnected nature of all of our systems, and that mind and spirit do affect the body. Despite these findings, most American patients aren’t receiving holistic care. A holistic approach to medicine involves treating the whole person and considering a patient’s unique needs — mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, culturally, or economically — to provide maximum value.
A holistic approach empowers patients to take an active role in their healthcare. It increases the depth of a provider’s care and can increase self-awareness and self-confidence in patients. When treating your patients, consider how other components may be affecting their eyes and overall health.
When patients present with new complaints, sometimes a change in lifestyle is the underlying cause. For example, a patient enters your office complaining of new headaches in their 3-month-old glasses with no significant medical history and a stable refraction. Asking the patient about a change in their visual demands such as a new work assignment or new digital devices may reveal the true culprit. Additionally, patients with newly diagnosed chronic health conditions may be experiencing significant lifestyle changes that could adversely affect their ocular health or visual perception. But beyond the eyes, we should talk to our patients about what modifications they’ve made to support their health. Many patients are proud to report the positive eating habits or healthy modifications they have made. Acknowledging their efforts provides reinforcement to continue with their treatment plan.
I often talk with my patients about stress. Are they working on a big presentation? Have they taken on more responsibility at home? Stress can manifest in a myriad of ways and when we consider the stress load of our patients, we see them as full human beings. Patients want to relate to their doctors, and sharing coping mechanisms can offer insight and connection. I suggest patients take a break throughout the day, recommit to being active 3-4 times per week, or re-engage in a hobby they’ve let go. This is not only important for patients, but for us as clinicians to keep burnout at bay.
When making diagnoses or recommendations, we have to consider the patient’s emotional state. Simply talking with patients about their support system and their fears, and reassuring them, can go a long way.
Dr. Danielle Richardson currently practices in downtown Houston with Texas State Optical and runs a holistic wellness company, Fierce Clarity. She is a registered yoga teacher and hosts wellness retreats, yoga classes, and pop-up events for busy, professional women to help manage stress and avoid burnout. You can find Danielle on Instagram at @fierceclarity.
This article originally appeared in the July-August 2018 edition of INVISION.