Applying a Systems Approach to Common Medical Problems
The clinical application of systems theory to common medical problems can open up new perspectives on diagnosis and new options for treatment of patients and their families. This model, also known as the biopsychosocial model (1), is more than just adding psychosocial data to the biomedical data. A systems approach to health care emphasizes the interdependency and interplay among different levels of the system—whether it is, for example, the interaction among the heart, the cardiovascular system, the individual, significant others, or whether it also includes interactions among factors involving the family, the community, and the society-level systems that can impact health and disease. All interact with one another to affect the patient who walks into a clinic with a presenting complaint. Recognizing and acknowledging the interaction between these different levels of systems allows one to better understand those mysterious, vague, or persistent clinical problems seen in day-by-day practice. The art and science of applying a systems approach to health care turns on the choice of systems levels with which to work. Which areas deserve further exploration and evaluation? Which components might provide the most powerful leverage for successful treatment?
KeywordsSystem Approach Anorexia Nervosa Chronic Illness Family Physician Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
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