Periskop: PRECISE

Complete Health Needs More Than Medicine

18. January 2023

Interview with Dr. Miriam Lee Burger MD

Social prescribing, the inclusion of social, emotional, or practical needs as health-related factors in patient care, is a relatively new concept in Austria and originates from England. However, this innovative approach could be relevant for Austria, especially in connection with the expansion of primary care units. 


Carola Bachbauer, BA 

Periskop Editor 


Currently, healthcare systems - also in Austria - are predominantly based on the traditional model of disease care. The WHO definition of health: "Health is a state of complete mental, physical and social well-being and not merely freedom from disease and infirmity. To enjoy the best possible health is a fundamental right of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social status," which, however, shows that there is more to health than its mere absence and that a holistic approach is needed to maintain it. The UN took up this broad description of health in 2016 as part of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under SDG3, it included "Health and Well-Being. Ensure healthy lives for all at all ages and promote their well-being" as a priority by 2030. "This WHO definition and UN requirement show that what keeps us healthy is much more than medicine," explains Dr. Miriam Burger, physician and founder of the Sound Medicine and Health Sciences Expert Group at the World Health Innovation Summit CIC (WHIS).


To sustain SDG 3, the Global Social Prescribing Alliance (GSPA) was founded by Gareth Presch and officially launched by the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in 2021 by international partners. GSPA is a group of stakeholders working globally to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3. 


GSPA also aims to establish a global working group to advance Social Prescribing through promotion, collaboration and innovation. The pioneering approach of Social Prescribing is based on health care delivery that is grounded in prevention, health promotion and improving health literacy. "Because prevention can save money and suffering," Burger emphasizes.


Social prescribing 

"The essential impetus for social prescribing is the recognition that patients' social needs or stresses have an important influence on their health, but that these are inadequately addressed in conventional health care," Burger emphasizes. The influence of non-medical factors on health status is still not sufficiently communicated. She believes that much more attention should be paid to this aspect in the future as part of a preventive healthcare model. The concept of social prescribing allows healthcare professionals to refer patients to social prescribers, often referred to as link workers. These are specially trained individuals who act as a link between the medical and non-medical sectors. According to the concept of Gesundheit Oesterreich GmbH ( GÖG ), no new occupational group is to be created as linkworkers, but rather this function is to be taken over by existing health and social professions. For social prescribing measures, physicians issue so-called "social prescriptions", "prescriptions" for socio-medical interventions, as part of the doctor's visit. During a face-to-face consultation, the linkworker then assesses the patient's social, emotional, or practical needs and informs the patient of available non-medical services to promote health and well-being. Based on this, an individualized care plan is developed. Link Workers also have a management function - healthcare management. This is because the Link Worker also assists patients in contacting non-clinical services and refers them to the right point of contact - as close as possible to the person's living environment. In this way, people remain in their living environment and are not taken out of it, as would be the case if they visited a clinic. In addition, the outsourcing of socio-medical consultation from the medical care service allows for more comprehensive consultation. "The spectrum of services made available for this purpose is very broad, ranging from diverse, local health promotion measures, sports and exercise programs or nutritional counseling to social, debtor, employment or housing counseling and community activities such as senior dances, hiking groups or neighborhood networks. These social offerings can be provided by both voluntary organizations and the community sector," reports the physician.


Relieving the burden on the medical sector 

"Social prescribing has many advantages. It reduces loneliness, gives people a sense of belonging to a community, and improves both mental and physical health. It also fosters talents and develops new hobbies," Burger explains. In addition, social prescribing can lead to a decrease in visits to the primary care physician, a decrease in the number of patients visiting the emergency room, and thus a significant financial relief. Elderly people who have few social contacts, the chronically and mentally ill, or the socially disadvantaged, who often have more difficult access to services, can especially benefit. Last but not least, Social Prescribing relieves the primary health care level, as it is less confronted with non-medical problems.


Primary Care Units as a pivotal point 

"One prerequisite for implementing social prescribing in a meaningful way in the Austrian healthcare system is the nationwide provision of primary care units (PVEs)," says Burger. This is because these multidisciplinary healthcare facilities offer the possibility of integrating non-medical services such as social work or linking workers into their teams. This makes it easier to care for patients holistically. The concrete implementation of social prescribing is still in its infancy in Austria. Nevertheless, there are already projects such as "Health Promotion 21+" (Gesundheitsförderung 21+), which are working to introduce and implement it in Austria.

#sustainability #healthcareinnovation #fromSickcareToHealthcare #socialprescribing  #GSPA #preventionmedicine #salutogenesis #holistichealth
#LeadBetterChangeTogether #CompassionateLeadership #CompassionMatters #Burnoutprevention #CompassionateLeaders


"Sound Medicine" and Music for Mindfulness are beneficial tools for Compassionate Leadership training

17. December 2022

by Dr. Miriam Lee Burger, MD

Working through Neuroscience publications on compassion and empathy improved my understanding of how we can train and maintain resilience and build long-term success for the greater good.

The surprising part was, that understanding the difference between empathy and compassion is a small, but very important step in perceiving others and yourself and becoming a better leader.

I have also found that with myself, with my Sound Bath groups, and with my sound coaching clients that sound as therapy, sound as meditative applications, and music in all kinds of forms, are extremely useful tools for

1) recognizing one's own and others' empathic distress

2) working with one's own and others' empathic distress

3) and for training self-compassion and compassion for others.

Empathy, compassion, and perspective-taking are hardwired into our brains just like our muscle memory. They are part of our disposition and can be systematically trained with specific exercises and specific tools.

It is critical to change leadership style from a traditional, power-oriented mode to a caring and compassionate style. The optimal leader would be an empowering carer who uses the fuel and agency of power to be courageous, move things forward, and promote care in the workplace to reduce stress, loneliness, and mental health issues, as well as promote social connectedness and cohesion.

#LeadBetterChangeTogether #CompassionateLeadership #CompassionMatters #Burnoutprevention #CompassionateLeaders

Periskop: PEOPLE

Music and medicine: innovations by the next generation

07. December 2022

Original source: 

Text by Rainald Edel, MBA
Periscope Editor

Medicine is in a state of upheaval worldwide, and a significant paradigm shift is taking place in many areas. Especially the young generation of doctors has a completely different approach to health and the integration of new ideas that are clearly different from traditional concepts, as the musician and physician Dr. Miriam Burger describes.

More and more scientific studies are attesting that music has a therapeutic effect - for example, on Alzheimer's disease, high blood pressure, mental illness and pain. But not only active music-making can bring about positive changes; the passive consumption of music, sounds, vibrations and rhythms also leads to measurable improvements.

Miriam Burger was professionally trained on the violin for 12 years and completed her medical studies in Vienna. In addition to her residency in psychiatry in Zurich, she furthered her education in Boston, in the areas of music as medicine, global health and mind-body medicine. She summarizes her work with sound and vibration under the term "sound medicine".

Through your musical and medical career you have come to "Sound Medicine". What can one imagine by this?

Medicine and music complement each other in music therapy in many ways, for example in neonatology, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's therapy. But music also has a lasting effect on healthy people: for example, it has been proven that brain areas are more developed in long-term musicians - for example, the corpus callosum, the bar that connects the two halves of the brain, as well as certain brain areas that are relevant for sound and sensory processing. So there is still much to be explored. The term sound medicine is currently used to describe mental and physical recovery through trance states. I call my work with sound and vibration "Sound Medicine" or "Sonic Medicine". In addition to music therapy, my personal interest also led me to study Asian systems of medicine for many years. In doing so, I came across meditation practices that use instruments and have great benefits for our nervous system. It is not only about coming to rest, but also about the regeneration of the nervous system. I work with meditation, sounds, vibrations, motion, self-awareness, sensory processing and neurogenic phenomena.
During the prolonged research & discovery phase in Asia and other continents, I have become more familiar with the specific tools and methods used there. The gong, for example, has a centuries-old tradition in Southeast Asia related to meditation, as do Tibetan singing bowls and other instruments. It is believed that the vibrations of the instruments help the body to relax deeply. In the process, the nervous system and the "stress system" are relaxed. Space is created for new insights, thought processes and behavioral changes. Currently I am co-creating and sourcing transformative methods for wellbeing & health, exactly at this interface of sound, music, consciousness, and medicine.

In your opinion, what framework conditions are necessary to create an innovation-friendly climate in the healthcare sector and to motivate women in particular to start their own business with an idea? Are there any differences here between Switzerland and Austria?

In the healthcare industry, increased collaboration between the private and public sectors is more important than ever. The private sector has a different working dynamic. Switzerland offers opportunities for private-state collaboration in cutting-edge research and industry, and unlike Austria, innovation centers are more proactively promoted. For example, there are several university and startup ecosystems supported by the state and cantons. There are clearly defined interfaces between medical research and industrial technology development - a thriving ecosystem that could also be more strongly promoted in Austria.

The World Health Innovation Summit team is part of the SDG Cities Flagship Program, which is about smart cities and sustainability.  The Global Social Prescribing Alliance was Founded by Gareth Presch and international partners (WHO, NASP, UNGSII). What new approaches to health and well-being are needed globally, in Europe and specifically in Austria?

Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) issued by the UN in 2015, we are particularly concerned with SDG3: "Good Health & Wellbeing - ensuring healthy lives for all people at all ages and promoting their well-being." The essential impetus for Social Prescribing is the recognition that social needs or pressures of patients have an important impact on their health, but that these are inadequately addressed in traditional health care. During my Global Health training at Harvard University in 2018, I learned about the detailed structures of health care systems in a wide variety of countries, and the concept of the "community health worker" was a key lever for sustainable health and disease management. This also inspired "Social Prescribing" a concept through which patients are "referred" to a so-called Link Worker for their non-medical needs and receive "Social Prescriptions", prescriptions for social medicine interventions. Link workers are professionals who act as pilots and work with the individual to coordinate non-medical interventions and activities to improve their well-being and refer them to appropriate institutions. Link workers thus also assume a management function - management in community health. The spectrum of services used for this purpose is very broad and ranges from locally available diverse health promotion measures, sports and exercise programs or nutritional counseling to social, debtor, employment or housing counseling and community activities such as senior dances, walking groups or neighborhood networks 

We launched the Global Social Prescribing Alliance (GSPA) in 2021 with the goal of building a global working group dedicated to advancing social prescribing through promotion, collaboration, and innovation.  We are actively working with 25 member states (Austria included).  COVID19 has really challenged our health services and WHIS and partners presented a paper on how to move forward during COVID19 while implementing the SDGs at the Global Solutions Summit 2021 (G20/T20).

Since 2019, you have also been working as an Advisor for the World Health Innovation Summit CIC. What is the idea behind this platform and what projects does it support?

The idea behind it was to create a platform in which patients, clinicians, managers, voluntary sector, adcaemica and the business community can exchange ideas to develop community-based medicine and personalized care, and furthermore to generate a level in which health innovation finds a place and gets in touch with global promotion. This has led to the formation of expert groups, each responsible for overseeing and developing projects. One example is that we are working together with the UNGSII Foundation, UNSDSN to launch COP Olympics, Changing the Narrative: COP as home for Global Changemakers for Climate Change. Creating an event that celebrates those who are focused on accelerating positive change by including all stakeholders to create the opportunities for everyone to contribute by simply changing the narrative: in regions, countries, continents and on a global stage to ensure the targets set are met and delivered by 2030. Another example is the concept of "Arts for SDGs" launched with WHO and partners. Specifically, artists from various communities around the world were invited to exhibit their artwork on the topic of mental health. We were also able to find global investors for medical tech startups and R&D projects. In the meantime, numerous projects have emerged through the promotion of SDG3-oriented innovation at the World Health Innovation Summit CIC.

Read more in the print version by Periskop

A quick and practical overview on the differences between sound medicine, sound therapy, sound healing, and sound meditation

28. December 2022

Text by Dr. Miriam Lee Burger, MD

I often get asked whether there is a difference between sound medicine, sound therapy, sound healing, and sound meditation. Here is a quick overview for you to understand what is meant by these terms:

Sound medicine, sound therapy, sound healing, and sound meditation are all terms that refer to the use of sound and music as a tool for improving health and well-being. However, these terms can have different meanings and connotations, and may refer to different practices or approaches.


Sound medicine is a broad term that can refer to any therapeutic practice that uses sound as a tool for healing or improving health and well-being. This can include a variety of practices, such as sound baths, vocal toning, and the use of musical instruments, and may be used in conjunction with other holistic or complementary therapies.


Sound therapy is similar to sound medicine, but may have a more specific focus on the use of sound as a therapeutic tool. This can include practices such as music therapy, which is a recognized healthcare profession that involves the use of music and musical interventions in a structured, evidence-based manner to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.


Sound healing is a term that is often used to refer to practices that use sound and music as a tool for promoting physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. This can include a variety of practices, such as sound baths, vocal toning, and the use of musical instruments, and may involve the use of specific frequencies or vibrations to promote healing.


Sound meditation is a practice that involves using sound and music as a focus for meditation, mindfulness, and compassion training. This can include listening to music or other sounds, participating in sound baths or other sound healing practices, or using specific sounds or musical instruments as a meditation aid.


Overall, while these terms may overlap in their use of sound and music as therapeutic tools, they can refer to different practices and approaches, and may have different goals and intended outcomes.

Further explanations on these sound medicine variations can be found here.