Holistic health care starts with a holistic health intake

By Erica Matluck, Tia Director of Wellbeing, ND, NP

Anyone who has spent time in the healthcare system has completed their fair share of new patient paperwork: medical history, previous surgeries, family history, medications, allergies, etc.

But for all the clipboards and checkboxes, does the information you’ve shared with the healthcare system even paint an accurate and complete picture of your health? Does a traditional health intake allow you to share the things that matter to you, and that are most relevant to your health goals?

As an integrative women’s health provider with extensive experience working in both traditional “Western medical” settings as a Nurse Practitioner, as well as more holistic care environments as a naturopathic doctor, I think the standard women’s health intake needs a serious upgrade.

Holistic health starts with a holistic intake, which is why we’ve redesigned the traditional stack of papers on the clipboard.

Yes, we ditched paper and pen for a mobile experience you can complete at home at your leisure. But, perhaps more importantly, we’ve reimagined the content of the intake questions themselves. When you complete your health intake for the Tia Clinic, you may be surprised at some of the questions we ask that don’t show up on the typical doctor’s office clipboard. You may be surprised to find that you actually have to think about your answers! Whether you’re coming to Tia for your annual Pap or an IUD, for digestive issues or for fertility concerns, here are five important questions we ask every patient and why:

#1: What does optimal health mean to you?

As a Naturopathic Doctor who believes that “health” should be defined by the patient and not the other way around, this, to me, is the most important question in Tia’s health intake. Your answer to this question will guide your care experience at Tia, help us work with you as an integrative care team, and define what success means on your terms.

I know that optimal health is not a one-size fits all definition — one woman’s definition of optimal health may include living a life without pain, despite having a chronic health condition, and another woman’s definition may include running a marathon within a year of giving birth. So, I ask this question to every one of my patients because it helps me identify their priorities, needs and goals. I also know that your definition and understanding of “optimal health” will likely change over time. In fact, watching the evolution of your definition is a great way to reflect on your journey to being a “well-woman”.

So if you haven’t thought about what that means to you, I highly suggest you start! :)

#2: How were you born?

Did you know that your medical history begins at conception? Your birth is one of the most important events in your early life that can impact your health risks later on — whether you’re 18 or 88. To give you a few examples… according to the Mayo clinic, a premature birth can raise the risk of various long-term health issues, behavioral or psychological problems and developmental delays. An analysis of multiple studies investigating the health risks of Cesarean deliveries found that children delivered by c-section were 21 percent more likely to develop childhood asthma, and 60 percent more likely to be clinically obese by age five than babies delivered vaginally.

Holistic healthcare requires an understanding of which variables we can control (diet, lifestyle, environmental, etc.) and which variables we can’t (past events, genetic predisposition, etc.). This question helps us understand the balance of those variables in your life so we know where to focus our treatment approaches for the best results.

#3: Were you breastfed?

Breastfeeding is one of the ways we develop healthy immune system function, and similar to how you were born, has a domino effect of implications for our future health and livelihood Breastfeeding provides numerous future health benefits from lower rates of childhood obesity and diabetes to fewer incidences of childhood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Being breastfed can also protect us from developing asthma, allergies and infections that call for antibiotics. And, frequent antibiotic exposure in our early years can impact the good bacteria that live in the gut (the microbiome), which has important implications for future physical and mental health.

#4: Do you routinely wake up in the middle of the night for any reason?

This single question tells us so much about you. Routine wake ups in the night can indicate dysfunction in your cortisol, or circadian rhythm. Cortisol is your stress hormone, so those 2 am wake-ups reveal a lot about how your body is dealing with stress! Stress has such a profound impact on our health so we take it pretty seriously at Tia. Waking up in the middle of the night can also be a sign of hypoglycemia, guiding us to find out more about your diet and test your blood sugar. In some cases those unwanted wake ups have to do with lifestyle or environmental factors like living on a noisy street, sleeping with a partner who snores, or feeling too hot at night. As a holistic provider, I see these environmental and lifestyle factors as integral to your health, and therefore I want to know as much as I can about your life.

#5: What are the primary causes of stress in your life?

Most of us have woken up to the harsh reality that stress is an epidemic. We know stress impacts your physical and mental health and limits your quality of life. In my opinion, we cannot offer comprehensive care today without giving people tools to deal with stress. Therefore at Tia, we want to know the in’s and out’s of where your stress comes from so we can provide you with the right tools and resources to manage it.

There you have a little sneak peek into Tia’s patient intake, and why we want to know more about you than the health conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, the surgeries you’ve had and the medications you take (though of course, we ask this stuff, too!). Our comprehensive intake provides your full care team at the Tia Clinic with the information we need to offer you truly holistic care.

Depending on what you’re coming in for — say an STI test or chronic headaches — we will also ask you more customized questions specific to your goals. Those questions may also seem unusual but trust me, there is a method to the madness!

We know that new patient paperwork can be time consuming and we respect your time. With that said, thoughtful, holistic care requires a thoughtful intake. We won’t waste your time asking you a bunch of irrelevant questions but we will ask you a lot of things you have likely never been asked before.

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The Tia Clinic is a modern gynecology and wellness practice designed to help women thrive. Become a Founding Member of the NYC Tia Clinic today at www.asktia.com.