Holism or Knowing the patient as an individual

Holistic care is described as a behavior that recognizes a person as a whole and acknowledges the interdependence among one’s biological, social, psychological, and spiritual aspects. Holistic care includes a wide range of approaches, including medication, education, communication, self-help, and complementary treatment.

Providers of holistic care consider a patient as a whole within his/her environment and realize that a patient is made up of a body, mind, and spirit. Respecting the patient’s role in the treatment process, having him/her take part in the process and encouraging self-care is another aspect of holistic care which leads to therapeutic consultation, hope, dignity, self-discipline, social growth, a sense of autonomy, vigor, and vitality.

For people using healthcare services, to be treated as an individual is an essential component of their whole experience and in retaining their dignity during a stressful period. Each patient experiences healthcare in a unique and individual way.

Being recognised and treated as an individual remains important to a person when they become a patient. In many ways the need is strengthened, particularly at a time when a person can feel vulnerable. In accordance with this, there is an important need for health services to recognise that individuals are living with their condition(s), experiencing it in a unique way, and that family and broader life need to be taken into account. It may mean considering future uncertainty, feelings of loss, guilt or shame and feelings of being morally judged or blamed by health care professionals.

Some of these feelings originate ‘outside’ of the health care system but are brought with the patient into it. Other experiences may be affected by attitudes and expectations of health professionals. Recognising and responding to the needs of an individual forms an important underpinning to the concept of personalisation and to the development of a responsive service that is truly patient-centred. Therefore, seeing patients as individuals within a complex health service becomes an important requirement for a good patient experience.

Holistic care is a comprehensive model of caring which is believed to be the heart of the science.