What is Whole Person Care?

Medically Reviewed by
Nzinga Harrison, MD
March 10, 2023

Whole Person Care considers a person’s physical, social, emotional, and mental needs. It recognizes that a person is more than just their physical body. Their mental health, relationships, and beliefs can also affect their well-being. According to the CDC, 60% of US individuals have one chronic condition, and 40% have two or more of them. These chronic conditions, for example, heart disease, diabetes, or liver disease, can lower a person’s quality of life. Whole Person Care is emerging as a solution to this problem. Keep reading to learn more about  Whole Person Care and how Eleanor Health has adopted whole-person care to treat our members better.

A doctor talks to his patient

What is Whole Person Care?

Whole-person care (also known as care coordination) involves treating the whole person, not just symptoms. It recognizes that access to quality healthcare and a person’s likelihood to use healthcare affect health outcomes. Moreover, it recognizes the value of physical, mental, and emotional health to well-being.

This patient-centered strategy aims to help the patient physically, psychologically, and socially. The purpose is to improve care coordination, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes. Health outcomes are the end result of a person’s care that impacts their overall well-being. It also involves respecting what is most important to a patient by taking into account their values and priorities. 

Eleanor Health’s approach to helping our members is unique to our four-prong approach to treatment. 

  1. Physical: detoxification, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and medical care
  2. Psychological: individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and other evidence-based therapies
  3. Social: case management, peer support, and assistance with employment, housing, and other social needs
  4. Mental: mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other complementary therapies

The most important strategies for patient-centered, coordinated care include 

  • Inclusion of mental health care
  • Coordination with home health initiatives, such as in-home nursing care
  • Coordination with long-term care
  • Employment of non-traditional healthcare personnel
  • Offering extra medical services not currently covered in standard benefits packages. These services include peer support and non-emergency transportation.
  • Collaboration among all medical staff that is involved in a person’s care
  • Helping a person navigate their health benefits and insurance
    • What services are covered
    • What out-of-pocket expenses may occur
    • Filling out the required paperwork

a therapist listens to her patient and takes notes

The Role of the Care Team in Whole-Person Care

Whole-person care requires a large team. It should include the following:

  • Clinicians or primary care physicians, who are the patients’ main point of contact with the health system. They must listen to the patient and ask the right questions to understand their needs. They should connect patients to other healthcare providers as needed. 
  • Community resources can connect patients with the necessary support. These include transportation, childcare, and social support. 
  • Social workers can consult and intervene in case of a crisis. They often aid patients’ mental well-being. They can also refer patients to state and federal healthcare programs.
  • Pharmacists can assess risk when dispensing medications. They can also advise patients when, how, and why to call a doctor.
  • Behavioral health therapists, as well as types of therapy, can be essential. These practitioners can help patients adhere to treatment regimens and track success.
  • Insurance providers can promote whole-person care by covering more services. They can also encourage preventative care. Several providers cover mental health therapies. Others partner with providers to provide whole-person care. 

The Benefits of Whole-Person Care For Individuals In Need

Research has shown that a whole-person approach to healthcare can lead to improved treatment outcomes and long-term recovery for individuals in need of help. This approach recognizes that people’s physical, emotional, social, and mental needs are interconnected and must be addressed in a holistic manner.

Whole-person care can be especially beneficial for individuals who are experiencing complex health issues, chronic conditions, or many health conditions at once. This includes 

  • Chronic pain
  • Mental health disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Other chronic illnesses

By taking a whole-person approach, we can help individuals better manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and achieve better health outcomes.

A grandmother takes a walk in a field with her granddaughter

Whole Person Care at Eleanor Health

At Eleanor Health, we understand that the people who come to us for help have complex needs and health histories. We started in 2019 as an outpatient addiction treatment center. We knew there was a serious lack of resources for many suffering from these diagnoses. 

We soon realized there were many more that could benefit from our services if we broadened our care to focus on whole-person health.  We do still offer addiction treatment services as part of our ongoing effort to help

Our approach to caring for our members includes several key components. 

  • Evidence-based (and research backed) medical and physical health services, including medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Psychiatric evaluation and ongoing treatment for mental health needs
  • Individual and group therapy: Individual therapy helps patients get to the root of their addiction. Group therapy can help provide information to those new to recovery. For example, group therapy can help patients learn how to avoid specific triggers.  
  • Community-based resources and support: We focus on addressing social determinants of health. These factors can significantly impact an individual’s health and well-being. We work to connect our patients with community resources and support.

For those seeking support for their addiction, our personalized value-based program recognizes that addiction is complex. It cannot be treated with a one-size-fits-all treatment program. Research has also shown that over 80% of addiction patients have other mental health issues. Patients with SUD also tend to have a greater prevalence of chronic physical health disorders. This is because of the close relationship between physical and mental health. Untreated medical issues might trigger a relapse. Furthermore, SUD outcomes are significantly influenced by social determinants of health. Our treatment program addresses all aspects of social well-being. 

Whole Person Care acknowledges the relationship between physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It enhances patients’ experience by treating patients holistically. Whole Person Care professionals should also be involved in addiction treatment.

If you’re ready to get started with a compassionate care team that wants to help improve your specific health needs while simplifying the process, Eleanor Health is here to help. Reach out today to get started! 

Get Started Today

Nzinga Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health with more than 15 years experience practicing medicine. She is a double-board certified physician with specialties in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Harrison has spent her career as a physician treating individuals from marginalized communities with substance use and other psychiatric disorders. As a physician executive, she has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer roles committed to creating and improving systems-based delivery of psychiatric and substance abuse care. She is a vocal advocate for stigma reduction, and is passionate about the necessity for whole-person care as individuals and communities seek to recover from and prevent substance use disorders.

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