Startups can be guilty of making ambitious claims on their websites and pitches. However, in an industry like healthcare, it’s critical that startups can actually deliver on the promises they make. The stakes are too high.
I thought about this recently when Joe Connolly, CEO of virtual gynecology care provider Visana Health, tweeted:
So many startups present “whole person care” but really only provide access to one-time visits with random clinicians. True care for the whole person requires a multidisciplinary, team approach — with providers who *actually work together*
I was glad Connolly brought this up. “Whole person care” is a term often used today as a kind of virtue signaling more personalized forms of care. But true care for the whole face is not a buzzword; it is a complex delivery model that engages an integrated multidisciplinary team on behalf of the patient. I also strongly believe that whole-person care goes beyond clinical issues to treat the patient as a human being with health challenges that should be viewed holistically, not as a disease or set of conditions that are compartmentalized between different clinicians and specialists .
A meaningful and accurate definition is important to us Thyme carebecause our goal is to transform oncology with a practical and effective whole person model of care that supports both patients and their care teams.
Let me describe what whole face care means to us. And please keep us in our pursuits.
The human side of a powerful care model
First, a definition: Whole-person care is a practical framework for care delivery that emphasizes the interconnectedness of body, mind, spirit, and environment. It aims to improve the care experience for people and their care providers.
The contrast with traditional medical practice is telling. Until the 1970s, medicine operated primarily on a biomedical model that reduced patients to their disease states. This framework began to shift as psychologists, researchers, and clinicians began to appreciate the influence that psychological and socio-environmental factors also have on illness. Unfortunately, this bio-psycho-social (BPS) model has failed to live up to its promise, in large part because care delivery remains neglected, hindering teamwork and provider integration.
Today, the medical profession has a deeper understanding of how social, physical, mental, and spiritual factors affect human health, but still struggles to implement care for the whole person. At Thyme Care, we have developed a whole-person care delivery model for cancer care that brings together care teams, providers and community organizations to meet members’ holistic needs throughout their care journey.
Imagine a person recently diagnosed with cancer. They may still be in shock and overwhelmed with worries and concerns, or they may be more engaged with their health than they have ever been. Regardless, our whole-person model of care begins with a conversation with the member about their priorities, hopes, fears, and goals. In this way, our care team can learn a lot about the member’s life, relationships and home environment, as well as how resilient they feel and the level of support they can rely on.
Human compassion is at the heart of this model. Our care partners are naturally empathetic, curious, emotionally intelligent people who are trained to have conversations that elicit engaged responses and create deep and lasting connections.
Only after we understand the member as a person do we move on to the disease. People with cancer are used to talking almost exclusively about their disease as they go from doctor to doctor. This makes cancer central to their identity. By practicing whole face care, we are trying to change that. Man is central; having cancer is part of their human experience.
Serves as connective tissue
With a deep and well-rounded understanding of the member as a person, our care team is able to help meet the member’s holistic needs throughout their care journey. This requires a team approach, as Joe Connolly said, “with suppliers actually working together”. In other words, whole person care is not just a system for providing isolated referrals, scheduling appointments, and transportation. This requires a deeply integrated network of suppliers and support teams equipped to assess and address comprehensive needs across multiple touch points.
At Thyme Care, our care team coordinates care between different specialty teams while helping these providers better understand members’ needs. They also engage the primary care physician and enlist the support of community organizations that can provide support services such as transportation, access to nutritious food, behavioral health treatment, and financial subsidies. This care team stays with the member throughout their care journey, adjusting the level of support as needs and circumstances change. This is possible because our care teams are organized by geography and thus embedded in the communities they serve.
Many healthcare organizations, especially early-stage technology companies, believe they provide care for the whole person, but they build their services on top of a technology platform, then layer on a human component. I believe it is the other way around. When deep relationships with high-value providers and community organizations are not in place, providers will feel ill-equipped to meet holistic needs, and members will feel frustrated and disengaged when their needs are not understood or addressed.
At Thyme care, our advanced technology platform is built to serve caregivers by reducing their administrative burden, coordinating their efforts, and identifying and flagging member needs as early as possible. This technology infrastructure improves the quality of care, reduces costs, improves the member experience, extends the reach of care teams, and enables whole-person care to be practiced at scale.
Whole-Face Care puts humanity back into healthcare by providing providers and members with a better journey and care experience. At Thyme Care, we believe this is the future of cancer care – but to get there, healthcare organizations need to understand what whole-person care and a team approach really means.
Learn how Thyme Care improves outcomes and lowers costs for health plans, providers and members: https://www.thymecare.com/health-plans