Integral Medicine: Treating the Whole—Patient, Provider, Healthcare System
Purpose: Integral Medicine is an approach to health, disease and healing that invites multiple perspectives and modes of inquiry to synergistically support healing for patients, providers and health care systems.
Approach: Integral Theory is a framework for organizing information that considers four perspectives essential to view the whole patient simultaneously – any or all of which may illuminate health or illness in a patient, population or system: “Interior-Individual” (mind, psycho-spiritual development, etc.), “Exterior-Individual” (molecules, cells, organs, bodies, etc.), “Interior-Collective” (cultural, ethical practices or norms, etc.), and “Exterior-Collective” (socioeconomic, environmental system, etc.).
Major Points: In practice, the application of Integral Theory to patient care can lead to four quadrant diagnosis and therapy for everything from status asthmaticus to chronic fatigue syndrome. When applied to the personal and professional development of providers an Integral Theory framework may improve critical thinking, ethical reasoning, mindfulness and empathy. At the healthcare system design level, patients have better outcomes when cared for by organizations ranked as having better work environments (where nurses report low rates of burnout, adequate time with patients, good relationships with colleagues, and opportunities for advanced training and continuing education).
Conclusions: Treating the whole person becomes more than simply including body, mind and spirit. The whole person includes multiple epistemological ways of knowing. Building on Integrative, Alternative, Complementary, Evidence-based Medicine, and Values-based care, Integral Medicine offers a methodology for integrating the “best” of each of these medical methodologies. Integral Theory, in this respect, can act as a meta-theory weaving together many of the converging concepts emerging in the service of whole patient care. Integral methodology also provides a common map/language for knowledge integration/translation and a shared inter-professional approach to whole patient care at the patient, population and health system levels.
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