Judith Nowlin, Baby Scripts Chief Growth Officer
There is a common misconception in healthcare that technological innovation contradicts the philosophy of holistic care. Technology is viewed as artificial, manufactured, and impersonal – it values human experience only to develop better algorithms, and it treats the patient’s physical body regardless of personality.
In contrast, holistic care is viewed as organic and natural. to increase the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of an individual and to see them not as a patient but as a person with a distinct and unique social and cultural background. Understanding this, it is easy to see why those who have invested in whole-person care have resisted or firmly rejected the innovation march.
But seeing these two things in tension is ignoring the nature of the technology – that is, as a tool rather than an end in itself. Take the smartphone, for example. It can be used to ignore interpersonal connections, endlessly scrolling through social media feeds or web content instead of interacting with people. However, it also provides the ability to maintain and strengthen interpersonal connections through video chat, text messages, and telephone calls and myriad other forms of communication. The lesson of the smartphone generation? Tech is what you make of it.
And this lesson should be applied to the role of technology in healthcare. Technology is not a threat to holistic care, but a means to scale their interpersonal experiences, and we need to look at them in that light. Tech overcomes the real threat to holistic care – human limitation.
In an ideal world, nurses are available around the clock to provide personalized care to their patients. In a tech-driven world, we can get close to this vision as digital tools provide the ability to extend care to a person’s home while overcoming the physical barriers of distance and time exacerbated by the lack of caregivers.
Of course, the philosophy of holistic care is not just based on interactions between patient and carer. When holistic care is successful, the need for a caregiver decreases as the goal is to create independent individuals who can maintain and manage their own health.
Tech can foster this independence by providing patients with accessible educational content right where they are, enabling them to take an active role in their own health and become self-reliant. From this point of view, the patient is not just another diagnosis, but a person who, with the right means, may be empowered to control their own health and well-being. Tech can help the patient learn and be encouraged about healthy lifestyle habits that suit their individual needs, keeping them away from medication and the hospital: a primary goal of holistic care.
This type of individual care plan is made possible by “big data” – precisely the algorithms that appear so impersonal at first glance and reduce the patient to statistics. Far from depersonalizing care, they are at the heart of the transition from diagnostic to preventive care, uncovering new knowledge and creating plans that are individualized and encouraging the patient to be uniquely structured Consider the person whose care management should reflect this and not be delivered through a single approach.
Imagine a world where the human connection of whole-person care is not limited to physical touchpoints, where a care provider can reach hundreds instead of reaching five or ten patients a day. A world in which hospitals are freed from avoidable admissions and the drug industry is only unnecessary in exceptional cases where there are no redundant protocols. This is the promise technology has fulfilled in other industries, and it is time that holistic health advocates put their skepticism aside for a second look.
About Judith Nowlin
Judith Nowlin is the former Co-Founder / CEO of iBirth and now the Chief Growth Officer at Babyscripts, a virtual nursing platform for obstetrics management where she focuses on strategic partnerships, corporate sales and speaking. Nowlin has developed iBirth ™, a mobile pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum companion to help healthcare professionals achieve better health outcomes for women and children in the US and beyond. The original idea for the app came from her last decade in maternity care as a health educator. iBirth was acquired by Babyscripts, Inc. in late June 2018.
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