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Music and Medicine: Adding Non-Medical Factors to Your Care

Three older, musically inclined gentleman who had not met before, set up with their instruments side-by-side. They looked at one another, smiled and started playing ballads of Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan songs. The three exchanged friendly conversation and shared memories that surfaced with each strum of the guitar. A stranger in the room would think that they had been friends for years and if you sat to watch them play long enough, you could almost see them transform from the formerly shy individuals you saw just minutes before. Their stories filled the room, along with the music that bonded them. “It’s the music that brings us together,” another one of them explained.

What’s unique about this story? That this all took place in their doctor’s office. Most people would never imagine their doctor offering a space to share their passion of music. “This is the future of healthcare,” one of them said very matter-of-factly.

Three Iora Primary Care patients playing music at the doctor's office

Would the traditional doctor’s office encourage patients to “jam”?

After hearing this story, I challenge you to think about your standard doctor’s office experience in this day and age. How does it look? Smell? Feel? Are the people friendly? Are you happy to be there? Why are you there? Are you anxious to leave? Are you being rushed? How are you treated? Finally, do you ever spend time at your doctor’s office outside of your regularly scheduled appointments or sick visits?

We do things differently at Iora Primary Care

Our doctor’s office is designed for older adults and prioritizes building relationships with patients. We know about their challenges, goals, family situations, vacations, and hobbies, as well as their medical needs and conditions. Why do we take the time to get to know our patients on a deeper level? Because in order to provide the care each patient needs and deserves, we must first understand what is important to them and adjust our vision to consider what they choose for themselves. Our role in the relationship is to understand and guide, not direct or mandate.  

Each morning my team sits together to discuss the care of our patients. We chat about blood pressures and medications, but also non-medical care (e.g., social stress, financial issues, motivations). Oftentimes, we hold brainstorming sessions about how to help patients through difficult times. With such a passionate and imaginative team, these morning discussions sometimes wander off topic. I thought we were heading in that direction a few weeks ago when we started talking about creating a patient band after noticing that several patients played instruments. Some practiced and performed regularly, others had taken a break from their instruments, and some practiced alone and were looking for others to play with. I realized the relevance of the conversation when we started talking about how socializing and community involvement link to better health.  


How this makes a difference in our patients’ lives

Ultimately, the music was being used as a tool to encourage and inspire friendships and community that we strive to instill through every piece of our practice operations. Social isolation, loss of purpose, and lack of support are all things that our aging population struggles with. Doesn’t it make sense then that your doctor––the person who is charged with your health and wellbeing––would address these important issues? Most insurers and most doctors offices are limited by the structure under which they operate. At Iora Primary Care, looking beyond symptoms to see how the issues in one’s personal life affect health is one of our highest priorities. It is clear to me now, that to transform healthcare you must build trust, strong relationships, and sometimes just “jam”.

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