Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Boss and employee talking

Taking the Stress Out of Healthcare Part 7: How a concept called “personomics” could change the face of healthcare and even your employee’s well-being.

by James Porter January 27, 2023

In the last installment, I introduced the concept of “Personomics” which embraces the surprising premise that spending MORE time with a patient in the short run will ultimately save time and money in the long run.

Roy Ziegelstein, M.D., Vice Dean for Education at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who delivered the keynote address on this topic, talked about getting to know the patient first. “This is where preventive medicine begins. As any good caretaker knows, the doctor-patient relationship is as much a part of the healing process as the medications and procedures themselves.”


Dr. Ziegelstein calls this approach P5 medicine.

P5 medicine is based on 5 words that begin with the letter P: It’s Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, Participatory and Psycho-cognitive. This collection of P-words attempts to characterize the patient not just as a biological and genetic entity (with certain health problems and family history) but also as a person with specific needs, values, habits, behaviors, hopes, fears and beliefs.

So instead of following a “one size fits all” approach to treating a patient in less time (in order to save money in the short run) a doctor practicing Personomics is spending more time to get to know a patient better (in order to save money in the long run). While this seems counter-intuitive at first, as I wrote in the last installment Ziegelstein makes an excellent case for why prescribing unnecessary procedures and medications (or procedures and medications that a patient is unwilling to take or have done) costs healthcare systems significantly more money than making suggestions for treatment the patient will actually follow.

So how do we apply the concept of Personomics to a business (or non-healthcare) setting? The first question you need to ask yourself as a manager is how well do you know your employees? Do you know if an assignment you are handing out to an employee (like putting on a presentation in front of a large group) is going to be a source of stress and or anxiety? Are they going to procrastinate about doing a job because they are afraid to admit they don’t already know something vital to its completion? And, you must also ask: Are you doing everything you can as an organization to prevent stress and stress related mental health problems like addiction, anxiety and depression no matter what it’s source?

Over two decades ago, I heard visionary author Dr. Robert Eliot, a cardiologist and stress expert give a talk about the difference between an “upstream approach” and a “downstream approach” to Western medicine. Downstream is when you fix a patient that’s already broken. Upstream is when you prevent the breakdown from occurring in the first place. And this concept absolutely applies to the way business leaders approach the subject of mental well-being.

Eliot was envisioning a day when all kinds of lifestyle-related health problems could be prevented if somebody simply went back UPSTREAM and built a fence to PREVENT people from falling over the cliff of lifestyle and stress-related DIS-EASE. In organizations those cliffs show up in the form of burnout, absenteeism, presenteeism and addiction. That is why mental well-being programs, DEI programs and Wellness programs are all so important. It’s a way for YOU the manager to help build a fence.

But more important than everything is YOUR PERSONAL relationship with each and every employee you manage. I was shocked to hear at the annual 2022 EAP conference when the opening keynote speaker there, an MD who worked for the CDC and NIOSH announced that an employee’s relationship with his or her boss was THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in determining their future health.

So if you want to apply personomics into the fabric of your business consider spending time getting to know your employees: their wants, their needs, their issues, the bottlenecks. Not only give them a seat at the table of your business, make them feel like they BELONG at that table, by respecting their advice, their input and their own creativity!

James Porter
James Porter