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Four Kinds of Healing that Happen in Healthcare

1. Healing via pills and procedures

An anti-biotic for an infection. An anti-hypertensive for high blood pressure. An anti-inflammatory for asthma. An appendectomy for appendicitis. A colectomy for unrelenting ulcerative colitis.

2. Healing via lifestyle changes

This kind of healing is only partially understood.

Take Dr. Conway, who was diagnosed with severe heartdisease and advised to have bypass surgery to save his life. He switched his diet and his symptoms resolved. Years later, he felt better than many years prior to his diagnosis and he doesn't take pills.

Then there’s Daniel, who had severe ulcerative colitis and was on multiple powerful medications that he felt were partially helping him and partially making him sick. He was advised to have his colon removed. Instead, he quit the job he didn’t like and pursued what he always wanted to do. Within weeks, his symptoms improved and within months he no longer had ulcerative colitis.

3. Healing as meaning

When a person sees what certain events in their life may mean, what they may suggest, and in which direction the event is moving them, a different kind of healing can happen. This is healing as recognition and healing as meaning.

What I've found in talking to people who are healing via meaning is that meaning cannot be given to someone. Meaning can be suggested, explored, and invited. But each person ultimately settles into their own meaning in the context of the life they are living.

4. Healing as identity

Sometimes, events in our lives challenge us so greatly that there's no choice but to see ourselves in radically new ways. During such a period, a door to a new experience of identity can open. The answers to “Who am I?” and “What am I?” may dawn as a new experience of what we call life. This is healing beyond the level of body and mind. It is accessible to everyone and opens the door to new possibilities.

The first kind of healing is the most talked about. The fourth kind is the least.

Today, innovation in healthcare is largely thought of as making the first kind of healing happen. We surely need the first kind. When we expand our understanding of innovation, we will see that the vast majority of healing body, mind, and life still awaits us in the other three categories.

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