The Biopsychosocial Information Model: The New Disease Paradigm

Stephen Soreff, MD



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There is a new disease paradigm: the biopsychosocial information model.

To our standard understanding of illness, the biopsychosocial model, I would add information as the fourth component.

Medical schools have built their curriculum upon these 3 pillars. The biological contributions have a long legacy, including the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Pasteur, Virchow, Osler, Halstead, and Reed. The evidence of the psychological factors can be seen in Friedman and Rosenman's idea that a Type A personality can lead to a heart attack.

There are abundant studies indicating the social impact on disease.

For example, the presence of a support system can increase survival for women with breast cancer. That same study also shows that support networks contributed to their longevity by helping them to gain access to information.

I believe information plays an ever-increasing role not only in our appreciation of disease -- its diagnosis and treatment -- but also in its prevention. As Ray Kurzweil writes, "Biology is now in the early stages of a historic transition to an information science."

The application of information takes many forms. Physicians and other healthcare providers now use computers and the Internet in addition to journals (many of which are now available online) to determine a diagnosis, select a treatment and follow the impact of their interventions as well as for charting their work electronically on medical records. Similarly, patients and consumers are turning to the Internet as well as magazines and books to help them find out about their ailment and to learn about their medications' effects and side effects.

A patient within hours after being started on a new drug can potentially know as much as the doctor about that preparation. Patients also use information they produce for themselves in the form of journal therapy and other daily logs.

The public utilizes information on food labels to improve their diet. And providers and consumers turn to the wellness literature and the Internet for information allowing them to both live healthier and prevent illness.

The biopsychosocial information formula is now becoming the new medical paradigm.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr Stephen Soreff, President, Education Initiatives, Nottingham, New Hampshire, and Editor in Chief, Psychiatry Section for eMedicine.


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