In addition to being the policy analyst project assistant here at Project HealthDesign, I am also a licensed practitioner of Alternative Medicine and Acupuncture. Engaging patients to be active participants in improving their health, and identifying health problems through incorporating Observations of Daily Living as a diagnostic tool, is a tried and extremely useful method in the arena of holistic medicine. It is extremely exciting to see this concept enter the main stream through Project HealthDesign.
When a patient comes to me with a health concern, I interview them and obtain the necessary information to formulate a tentative diagnosis and to create a treatment plan. This interview process is an in-depth evaluation of just about every aspect of the patient’s health and lifestyle. The answers to these questions provide valuable input into the diagnostic process. It is usually a voyage of discovery -- every symptom, and how those symptoms change through the treatment process, provide clues both to me and the patient on how to improve their health.
I am always surprised by how difficult it is for people to answer questions about themselves at the beginning of treatment. Questions like; “how often do you experience pain? have a headache? where do you feel the pain? how often do you feel sad? how often do you have a bowel movement? how often do you wake up during the night? do you have less energy after you eat certain foods? do you feel sick after you eat certain foods?” are often answered with “I don’t know.” There are always exceptions, but most people aren’t that tuned in with what is happening with their bodies. No one has ever asked them to pay attention to these things.
Just like everything else in life, to be good at something takes practice. So people who work with me practice making observations about their daily lives. I often ask my patients to keep a journal. These journals capture the same type of information captured by some of Project HealthDesign’s mobile applications. Through the interview process, we identify and prioritize what observations they will track by identifying those that are impacting the patient most negatively. In my experience, when the process of discovery and the treatment planning is a partnership instead of a prescription, my patients are more likely to follow through with keeping their journals and following other recommendations.
I have the advantage of seeing my patients regularly and for more than 15 minutes at a time. During these regular visits, patients get really good at answering my questions and start to notice patterns about their health on their own. It is easy to see in my patients that a sense of empowerment comes along with actively participating in the discovery of what a healthy lifestyle is for them. Also, by closely following changes in their daily lives it is easier for them to identify those things that improve their health or make it worse. For many patients, having a record of how their progression through treatment, including lifestyle changes, has positively impacted their health provides continued motivation for them to be their own advocate, and to keep making positive changes.