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HOLIS-TECH: Opportunities where health IT meets holistic medicine

Erik Goldman Erik@holisticprimarycare.net


Public interest in holistic, integrative and functional medicine has surged over the last decade. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Americans spend roughly $15 billion annually on visits to holistic practitioners, and $13 billion on supplements and natural products1. Other estimates put that figure upwards of $30 billion.2

Likewise public engagement with self-tracking technology, self-directed biometric and genetic tests, and online self-care has been growing rapidly.3, 4

Yet, on a population basis, neither of these movements has fully delivered on its potential to reduce the prevalence, morbidity and mortality of chronic disease, or to truly improve the health of the nation on a large scale.

Similar obstacles confront both holistic medicine and self-care IT: lack of insurance coverage; institutionalized reluctance within mainstream care settings; fragmented, sometimes misguided application on the individual level; cost and access challenges; and inadequate numbers of clinicians well-trained in the optimal use of holistic modalities and self-directed health IT.

Practitioner interest in nutrition, lifestyle medicine, genomics, microbiomics and patient self-tracking is strong and growing. According to Holistic Primary Care’s 2016 survey of more than 850 clinicians—40% of whom are conventionally-trained—most are already incorporating nutrition (90%), stress management (72%) and herbal medicine (64%) into their practices. 5

The majority is using electronic medical record (EMR) systems (70%), but engagement with telemedicine, smartphone-based diagnostics, and patient tracking technology is well under 50% across all age brackets and practice settings. Yet 44% indicate they are considering tele-consults as a way of increasing practice revenue, 60% express interest in learning more about microbiomics, and 44% want to learn about microbiomics (60%).

There are vast opportunities at the convergence of holistic medicine and health care IT for significant improvement in community health. The key is to address systemic roadblocks that prevent the full flourishing of both trends.
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