If asked, most North Americans know about the traditional healthcare system consisting of western medicine - a reductive approach that focuses on diagnosing and treating illnesses. For example, if a patient is suffering from a skin condition, through western medicine they will likely be referred to a dermatologist who will focus on providing treatment solely for the skin condition. This may work for some, but more and more people are finding that traditional treatments simply don’t work, or are temporary fixes for a more complex issue. Public trust in traditional care has been declining since 2018, indicating there needs to be change in how the system works. Experts say this may be because patients are not feeling heard during conventional appointments, and may not feel like they are getting what they need out of their care. 

A holistic approach, also known as an integrative approach, considers all aspects of a person’s health - body, mind, spirit, and emotions - before prescribing a treatment. It includes conventional care, with the added benefit of alternative treatments where they may be beneficial. Overall, integrative health aims for well-coordinated care among different providers by bridging the gap between conventional and complementary approaches to care for the whole person. This also makes for a better provider-patient relationship, as time is spent understanding each individual and their needs. 

Consumers used to the traditional healthcare system want more time spent with their providers, which isn’t always made possible with the treatment-based approach being used. A 2019 study found that the desire to spend more time with a practitioner was the driving factor of why people with musculoskeletal conditions switched to holistic care options. 

Going back to the example of a patient with a skin condition, a holistic approach will consider the fact that their skin is part of the Integumentary System, which is further related to ten other bodily systems that may be the true root cause of the skin condition. The skin issue could be caused by a hormonal imbalance due to mental or emotional stress, or a poor diet. 

The goal is to take a preventative approach to understand all factors contributing to an issue, rather than the treatment-focused approach we see with traditional western medicine. With more people shifting focus toward holistic approaches to wellness, it’s only natural to wonder why this type of medicine is gaining so much attention. An integrative approach to medicine may be a better option for finding long-term solutions to wellness. This is because it will treat the existing problem - the main reason why someone may approach a wellness provider in the first place - and will also help prevent problems you may have down the line. 

A big misconception around holistic care is that it doesn’t work. This isn’t true. Holistic care combines conventional treatments with alternative medicine. A combination of the traditional western medicine most of us know about and have experienced plus alternative options that consider a person’s lifestyle make for a well-balanced approach to health. A 2018 study of more than 20,000 patients showed that treatments such as acupuncture are effective for chronic musculoskeletal, headache, and osteoarthritis pain. Another study found a link between meditation and reduced inflammation. A 2019 study found that exercise, yoga, and different forms of meditation can help with clinically diagnosed anxiety and depression. 

With so many types of holistic treatments left unresearched, it’s safe to assume there are other methods that work but lack scientific backing. This being said, it’s important to provide consumers the education and knowledge of the different care options they have when it comes to their health and wellness. 

PromptHealth provides an interactive platform for people to learn about different holistic wellness options directly from experts, and connect with them for care. With awareness around the benefits of an integrative approach growing, we are one step closer to solving the gap between people seeking preventative care, and the wellness providers who provide complementary solutions to traditional healthcare.

If you are a health and wellness provider who believes in a holistic approach, we would love to have you join the PromptHealth community. 

Or, if you are seeking holistic care options, be sure to visit Prompthealth.ca and subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed of updates.