The word “holistic” is derived from the Greek word “holos” meaning whole, says AHA’s Dr Adrian Leung.
Yet it wasn’t used in English until 1926 when coined by South African statesman and philosopher Jan Smuts.
The word was still scarcely around as recently as 50 years ago.
But it has become common place, particularly in medicine, where it refers to a method of healing that takes into account the whole person.
It doesn’t just consider their body but their mind, spirit and emotions as well.
It pays attention to a patient’s physical wellbeing as well as their intellectual, emotional and social dimensions.
Ancient civilisations relied on holistic principles using plants, herbs and the mind to manage their health.
But around 400 BCE, Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine began to use anatomy and physiology to explain and treat disease.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Florence Nightingale recognised the impact a person’s environment had on their health, giving rise to the reintroduction of holistic care.
Its goal is to promote overall wellbeing by addressing all of the factors that can influence a person’s health.
Being a doctor that practices holistic care, I can promise you it doesn’t mean we won’t prescribe modern medicine.
It just means that we look at all the options available, working with our patients, offering traditional and complementary medicine as well other initiatives that can benefit and support the whole person.
Let’s take a look at the foundations holistic care is built on why it is so important.
Key principles of holistic care
To diagnose and treat a patient holistically means assessing an entire range of conditions and factors that could be impacting their health.
These include but are not limited to diet, exercise habits, stress levels, sleep patterns, personal relationships and happiness at work.
Holistic care recognises that each patient is unique and must be addressed in a personalised manner, focusing on the importance of dignity and respect.
It considers their own family and medical history, their lifestyle, cultural background, beliefs and preferences.
Prevention and education
Holistic care puts a great emphasis on preventative measures, education and health promotion.
GPs who practice holistic medicine like to educate their patients about healthy lifestyle choices, disease prevention and self-care techniques.
Holistic medicine normally encompasses a collaborative approach across a wide range of healthcare providers and specialists.
This acknowledges that not one doctor is equipped to care for all of a patient’s needs.
It ensures that patient receives the best possible individualised care from allied health professionals across the entire healthcare industry.
Emotional and psychological support
A person’s mental and psychological state of mind are considered an integral part of holistic medicine.
GPs offer support for managing stress, anxiety and depression.
They also recommend specialists in the field to further address emotional challenges that may have a significant impact on a patient’s physical wellbeing.
Quality of life
Holistic care isn’t just about curing diseases.
It digs much deeper than that, placing a high priority on a patient’s quality of life.
To do this, it addresses issues that may be impacting their state of mind and the way they function daily.
Empowering the patient
Holistic doctors love empowering their patients to take an active role in their health management.
They are educated by their doctors and then encouraged to make informed decisions about their own treatment plans.
We then work with them to set and achieve their health goals.
Why holistic care is important
By delving deeper into a patient’s psyche, doctors gain a deeper understanding of a patient’s emotional wellbeing – what makes them tick.
This in turn has a great impact on their physical wellbeing and allows us to make more accurate diagnoses as well as curate more appropriate treatment plans.
It’s one of the key planks of holistic medicine.
By searching for and addressing underlying issues that trigger health problems in patients, holistic care helps prevent the onset of disease and their complications.
Holistic care treats a person in their entirety.
So when they visit a doctor with a concern, we don’t just examine that problem on its own but look at all the mental, emotional and spiritual reasons which could be triggering their health problems.
The result is they hopefully leave us enjoying an overall improved sense of wellbeing.
Doctors who practice holistic care tend to have much closer and more trusting relationships with their patients.
That’s because we make a more intimate connection with them, delving into their state of mind to gain a deeper perspective of who they are.
We like to really get to know our patients and show we care about them.
This grows trust in the relationship, leading to honest conversations and superior outcomes for patients.
Holistic medicine enjoys better long-term results because it searches for and addresses the crux of medical issues rather than putting a band-aid on surface level problems they manifest as.
This results in healthier patients in the long-term.
Reduced healthcare costs
Holistic medicine’s focus on prevention and early intervention saves patients significant money by avoiding the need for costly medical procedures.
Where to start with holistic care
Given the benefits that we’ve just explained, it’s no wonder that more people are seeking out holistic care to manage their health and wellbeing.
If you’re interested in pursuing holistic care, it starts by finding the right doctor who is committed to this way of practice and having a conversation about your needs and goals.
When you’ve found the right practitioner, you can then collaborate to build a holistic care plan.
About Dr Adrian Leung
I left Hong Kong to join AHA Seaford in 2022, settling into our wonderful Seaford region with my wife and two sons.
With family front of mind, I am passionate about holistic patient care and preventative medicine, along with chronic disease management.
Let’s talk about your holistic health goals today.