Treating the Whole Person: Why the Biopsychosocial Approach is Getting More Attention with Employers

Symptom Diagnosis and Changes to Diet and Exercise Are Not Enough to Drive the Medical Cost Trend Down.

Rising healthcare costs continue to plague American businesses. Chronic diseases have had a significant impact on health and economic costs. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 90% of the nation’s $3.5 trillion in annual healthcare expenditures are for people with chronic and mental health conditions.1,2 Diabetes alone costs the US healthcare system and employers $237 billion every year.3 Poor health impacts everyone. Nearly every business faces the challenge of managing rising healthcare medical costs—both direct and indirect —such as health plan premiums, pharmaceutical drugs, presenteeism, absenteeism, disability claims and worker’s compensation.

Treating the Whole Person and Not Just the Symptoms
The search for understanding the underlying mechanisms of poor health and identifying the best possible treatment options has prevailed because of these staggering healthcare costs. The traditional approach towards healthcare and prevention has been the biological model where a person’s symptom or illness is exclusively treated by medical means. For instance, a person may experience jaw pain, so a medical doctor might recommend a mouthguard as the overall treatment. At the time this might seem satisfactory but what if the underlying pain advances into chronic pain that indicates a more serious underlying condition. This challenges the biomedical approach to develop a more extensive model that does not fit into its narrow framework.

The biopsychosocial (BPS) approach considers factors such as emotions, behaviors, culture and social environments that all impact human medical conditions. This multifaceted model allows for treating the whole person considering the underlying factors that can inhibit a person’s ability to develop healthy habits so that healthcare professionals can address the root of the issue and not just the symptoms. Plus, meet the challenge of rising chronic illnesses. It becomes apparent that surface level medical treatment while important is not enough to drive the medical cost trend down. A deeper dive into the biological, psychological and social factors unique to each individual is needed. For example, someone who is depressed, might have had a heart attack (biological), or have a self-critical nature about themselves (psychological) or lost a loved one (social). By identifying these factors, you can properly educate and support those who may have emerging or diagnosed illnesses by leveraging human connections to address the root cause of unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors.

Why Employers Should Look Beyond the Traditional Well-Being Programs for their Employees
When employers are choosing a worksite health and well-being program for their employees, it’s crucial to select one that’s result-driven and personalized. While most traditional one-size-fits all wellness programs might appear attractive with its incentives and gamifications, a behavior-changing, continuous engagement and personalized program proves to be more successful. WellSpark Health helps businesses avoid future medical costs associated with their employees’ lifestyle driven illnesses and unmanaged chronic disease. Our approach leverages behavioral diagnostic tools to help unlock psycho-social determinants. By identifying, educating and supporting those who may have emerging or diagnosed illnesses we keep people on a lower cost path to good health.  Our health management, pre-disease, and condition management solutions focus on treating the whole person allowing us to improving outcomes across the health continuum. Our behavior change toolset is a catalyst that unlocks the daily struggles and stressors, transforming conversations beyond traditional EAP services.

To learn more about how WellSpark Health can help your organization or request a demo, contact us at 1-877-224-7350 or [email protected].


[1] Buttorff C, Ruder T, Bauman M. Multiple Chronic Conditions in the United States pdf icon[PDF – 392 KB]external icon. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corp.; 2017.

[2] Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights pdf icon[PDF – 74 KB]external icon.

[3] American Diabetes Association. Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017. Diabetes Care 2018;41(5):917-928. PubMed abstractexternal icon.