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Digital Technology Drives a Transition Towards More Holistic and Integrative Healthcare  

Digital Technology Drives a Transition Towards More Holistic and Integrative Healthcare  
Integrative medicine and "patient-centric solutions—underpinned by digital technology—are the future of healthcare." (Credit: Debora Cheyenne/The New Yorker)

Underpinned by developing digital technologies, so-called “integrative medicine” is playing an increasingly important role in the provision of more holistic, preventative, patient-centric healthcare solutions. It focuses on meeting a patient’s physical, mental and spiritual needs through a combination of traditional, complementary and alternative medicine.

A Changing Healthcare Landscape 

Despite ongoing developments in modern medicine, contemporary society is experiencing a series of epidemics and pandemics of non-communicable, chronic diseases and communicable, infectious diseases. These public health crises, which are partly attributable to human behavior and lifestyle, mean that a growing number of people are now looking to supplement conventional medical treatments—involving drugs such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatories—with therapies based on traditional, complementary and alternative medicine (TCAM). 

Today, underpinned by developing digital technologies, so-called “integrative medicine”—or integrated medicine—is playing an increasingly important role in the provision of more holistic, preventative, patient-centric healthcare solutions.

According to a recent report from business consulting firm Grand View Research, the value of the global complementary and alternative medicine market will reach nearly US$ 700 billion by 2030, with a year-on-year growth rate of 25% between now and the end of the decade. The rising prevalence of neurological illnesses and cancer is seen as one of the major factors driving this growth.

Prevention Rather Than Treatment

Integrative medicine promotes prevention and healing, rather than disease and treatment. It views patients as people with minds and spirits, as well as bodies, and includes these dimensions in diagnosis and treatment. It involves patients and doctors working together to maintain and improve health by focusing on factors such as diet, exercise, quality of rest and sleep, and the nature of relationships.

People with long-lasting, chronic, or complex conditions may find this integrative approach particularly useful. Pain management can often be effectively handled with complementary, evidence-backed healthcare treatments, such as acupuncture, animal-assisted therapy, aromatherapy, dietary and herbal supplements, massage, meditation, yoga, and naturopathy. A growing range of such treatments are now offered in hospitals.

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

The adoption of integrative medicine offers substantial benefits for both patients and healthcare providers. For patients, it signifies a paradigm shift, treating them not as standardized organisms in isolation, but as complex individuals within intricate environments. The preventative focus of integrative medicine ensures early detection and treatment, ultimately alleviating the strain on healthcare systems. 

Digitally Driven Integration 

Digital technologies are facilitating and driving the transition towards integrative healthcare, enabling interoperability and the visualization and sharing of patient-specific data. Over the last decade, technological advances have led to explosive growth in virtual consultations, remote monitoring, mobile health, digital therapeutics, and the application of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Nicola Filzmoser is one of the co-founders of UK-based health start-up Happyr Health, an app that provides mobile-first care to teens with chronic pain, starting with migraine. With the AI-based Happyr Health app, teens can track their daily mood and log their migraine symptoms for increased resilience and well-being. Filzmoser explained:

“I have been living with migraine, a chronic pain condition, since I was four years old. Only in early adulthood did I come to understand how chronic pain is not just a physical issue, but a social and emotional challenge as well. I started to learn about stress-management techniques, meditation, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Shockingly, none of these evidence-based techniques were suggested to children with migraine. At Happyr Health, we developed tools (an app for children, a book, and an online course for parents) to bring those techniques to children and young people with chronic pain in a playful and personalised way.”

"Patient-centric solutions—underpinned by digital technology—are the future of healthcare." (Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

Filzmoser believes patient-centric solutions—underpinned by digital technology—are the future of healthcare. He added:

“Integrative medicine is characterized more and more by patients leading their own care journey, informed by digital data and supported by digital tools. Integrative, holistic medicine certainly makes healthcare solutions much more complex. To deliver those solutions, digital technologies are essential for data collection, communication and advanced analysis.”

UK-based Core Spirit is an online platform where individuals can connect with, follow and gain knowledge from healthcare professionals and alternative practitioners from across the world. Anastasia Burakova, Core Spirit’s product manager, explained:

“From apps to online platforms, digital technology is playing a game-changing role in supporting healthcare solutions that incorporate different views and approaches.

We at Core Spirit use the power of technology to unite experts from two different worlds, giving users access to a combination of possible treatments that can work synergistically to improve personal health. I believe this integrated approach represents the future of healthcare.”

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