Whole person assessment for family medicine: a systematic review



To identify and evaluate clinical approaches to whole person assessment (WPA) that are translatable to family medicine regarding feasibility, quality and alignment with theoretical models of whole person care (WPC).


Systematic literature review.

Data sources

MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO and ATLA Religion databases were searched through 9 March 2020, with additional handsearches.

Eligibility criteria

English language clinical assessments of multiple domains; which involve patient–clinician interaction and are translatable to general practice (GP); from the fields of medicine, allied health, nursing, mental health and pastoral care. Tools designed for single diseases or symptoms, for outcome rather than clinical assessment or with outdated classification systems were excluded.

Data extraction and synthesis

We appraised the quality of included papers using Johanna Briggs’ Institute Checklists and Terwee’s criteria for validation studies. Clinical assessments’ alignment with theoretical WPC, feasibility for adaptation to GP and quality were examined. We analysed extracted data using framework synthesis.


Searches retrieved 7535 non-duplicate items. Fifty-nine were included after screening, describing 42 WPA methods and representing multiple disciplines, purposes and formats. All included assessments aligned partially with models of WPC, but most did not adequately encompass all aspects of WPC. Robustness varied significantly and was often inadequately described. We judged none of the identified assessments to be ideal as a multipurpose WPA in GP. Some could be used for specific purposes, such as elicitation of patient perspectives or complexity assessment.


While no WPAs were found that were sufficient for broad implementation in GP, some approaches may be suitable with adaptation and evaluation. Strengths of existing approaches could inform WPA development in future.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020164417.


Holistic healthcare, Primary care, Whole person assessment, Quality of care, Family medicine

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