As we enter 2024, I find my patients are not only struggling with their health issues but increasing angst about politics, climate change and the general uncertainty surrounding us in the world. It is apparent that the rapidity of change is fundamentally affecting all of us.
10 Tips to Empower Patients
We need to empower patients to both cope and thrive. Here are 10 tips to help your patients build resilience and well-being as we head into the new year.
1. Acknowledge the beauty and uniqueness of every patient
Find out who they really are. When patients feel both seen and heard, their “placebo response” is automatically activated. They will do better no matter what treatment you give them—plus it’s a good practice builder because it grows the practitioner-patient relationship.
2. Educate patients
Provide information about self-care, stress management, healthy lifestyle choices and the importance of mental health.
3. Promote healthy habits
Encourage patients to maintain regular physical activity, consume a balanced diet, get enough and correct sleep, and avoid harmful substances.
4. Promote mental well-being and a sense of empowerment
Help patients reframe negative thoughts, practice gratitude, and cultivate optimism to build resilience and improve well-being. Enhance self-awareness by aiding patients in developing a better understanding of their emotions, strengths and values, which can empower them to navigate difficult situations.
5. Augment nutritional reserves for resilience
Check for nutritional insufficiency, either through their health history or lab tests. It is important to have sufficient nutrients to both stave off and treat diseases.
A good example is that over 90% of patients in ICU with COVID had very low vitamin D levels. Higher vitamin D levels appeared to help boost immunity, although treating patients in ICU with high doses of vitamin D did not help at all, which is why preventative nutritional reserves are essential. Steer patients toward a nutritionally dense, high-fiber, low-sugar diet.
6. Help patients understand the effects of stress
We teach all our patients about the effects of stress and what they can do about it. We often use a salivary free cortisol test to help them understand where they are.
Then, we suggest lifestyle modifications, teach coping strategies and equip them with stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, problem-solving, and effective communication to manage stress and other challenges.
Finally, we teach them how and when to use adaptogens to modulate the effects of stress on their bodies.
7. Develop a personalized exercise program
We all know exercise is good for us, but we don’t necessarily need to spend hours in a gym. In The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner shows that one of the secrets to a long healthspan in addition to a long lifespan may be as simple as having to climb many steps every day.
See how you can get patients to incorporate meaningful exercise into their daily regimen, including stretching, strengthening and aerobic exercises. Don’t forget to include proprioceptive exercises, such as tai chi or dancing, which will help them develop balance and prevent falls.
8. Focus on reducing environmental toxicity
Environmentally induced auto-immune disease is on the rise, and increasing environmental toxicity in modern society affects each of us in myriad ways. Industrial and environmental chemicals are in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the foods we eat, and the products we put on our bodies. While we can’t completely eliminate environmental toxins, minimizing our exposure means less physiological stress on our detox systems.
And it’s not just biochemical toxicity that concerns us. Emotional toxicity can have a profound effect on our health. Physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse permeate up to one in three households and are common in work environments. We need to help each other combat emotionally damaging environments and promote the understanding, love, and connection we all need to be our best selves.
9. Foster supportive relationships
Help patients develop and maintain strong social connections because social support can enhance well-being and resilience.
10. Provide ongoing support
Regular follow-ups, counseling and access to mental health services can aid patients in overcoming adversity and maintaining well-being.
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2024.
Steve Amoils, MD is the Co-Medical Director of the Alliance Integrative Medicine (AIM) in Cincinnati, together with his wife Sandi Amoils, MD. He is an Adjunct Assistant
Professor in the Department of Medical Education at the University of Cincinnati and President of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, and has been practicing Functional Medicine since 2000. He has received numerous awards
for his achievements, including America’s Top Doctor in Family Medicine and Cincy Top Doctor yearly since 2007.
Trained in South Africa, London and then in the United States, Steve is a board-certified family physician. After completing medical training in South Africa in 1984, he and Sandi spent two years traveling around the world, studying various indigenous medical systems. In 1987, they immigrated to the US, where they ultimately both practiced as family physicians in Cincinnati. In 1999, at the behest of a large hospital group, they opened Alliance Integrative Medicine to offer patients a comprehensive, personalized, integrative approach to medicine. AIM has been recognized nationally as a leading center in integrative medicine since 2004, and Dr. Amoils has been a site investigator on three major national studies on integrative medicine. AIM averages approximately 30,000 patient visits per year. Alliance Integrative Medicine offers an accredited physician fellowship training program in integrative medicine.
Through the nonprofit Integrative Medicine Foundation, the Amoils are active in research, education and overseeing the Get Well program for the underserved. Steve and Sandi are co-authors of Get Well & Stay Well – Optimal Health through Transformational Medicine. The book expounds on their philosophy of helping patients transform illness into wellness through the best of conventional medicine, functional medicine and integrative therapeutic options