Functional Medicine in Practice

Business and Practice Models for the Functional Medicine Clinician

Providers are successfully applying the functional medicine model in many different settings: small, large, cash-based, insurance-based, institutional, and private. Some of the more common models in which functional medicine is being practiced are listed below. However, no single, optimal model for practicing functional medicine exists, and in reality, clinicians tend to practice a hybrid of two or more models.

Patrick Hanaway, MD, former director of research at Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, illustrates the Functional Medicine model in practice.

Business & Practice Models

Insurance-Based Models

Practitioners in various settings around the country are applying functional medicine in insurance-based models of care. Here, patients are seeking functional medicine that is reimbursed through traditional insurance fee structures. The challenge of this model is balancing the delivery of more thorough care and experiencing the rewards of clinical success against offering functional medicine to a wider range of patients. Yet, given that both the evidence and the demand for functional medicine are growing and gaining traction, insurance-based models are likely to become more mainstream.

Read: “Value-Based Health Care Is Inevitable and That’s Good”

Large Institutions/Academic Centers

Functional medicine is gaining attention as a new approach to care in large institutions and academic centers throughout the country. An increasing number of institutions now have practitioners trained in functional medicine, principally through IFM – which is  the only organization providing functional medicine certification along with educational programs directly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).1 This is leading to new approaches to investigate ways to research outcomes of functional medicine designed to discover and remedy root causes of problems instead of suppressing symptoms. Random controlled trials are beginning to be conducted, and a new body of literature is beginning to emerge in this realm as a result.

Read: “Functional Medicine Residency Improves Outcomes”

[1] ACCME is the national continuing medical education accreditation organization founded by the American Medical Association and several other national organizations representing physicians and hospitals. IFM has been continuously accredited by ACCME since 2001, and has been awarded the coveted status of “accreditation with commendation” on three separate occasions.

Private-Pay Models

Finding that they can deliver value-based care that leads to better patient outcomes, many functional medicine practitioners choose the private-pay model. Whether they come in the form of cash fee for services, concierge, or membership plans, there are no hidden fees with this model; patients know exactly what they are getting and for how much. In addition, a functional medicine private-pay model places fewer restrictions on the type, scope, and length of care, meaning providers can personalize treatment plans for each individual.

READ: “A Moment of Unrivaled Opportunity for Independent PCPs”

Low-Income & Underserved Practices

A growing subset of practitioners are carving out creative, low-cost solutions to deliver functional medicine. Often, these practitioners begin by treating their patients with one or two common, affordable supplements. They may also conduct group visits and patient education seminars.


Functional Medicine for Residents and Medical Students

AFMCP 2017 Huntington Beach, CA Medical Examination

Interested in a Career in Functional Medicine?

As the only organization providing functional medicine certification along with educational programs directly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), IFM offers multiple opportunities to full-time residents and medical students to receive training to apply science to clinical practice in order to reduce chronic disease, restore patient health, and prevent professional burnout. Learn More

What Is It Like to Practice Functional Medicine?

1. Katriny Ikbal, DO, on "Functional Medicine Meets Patient Demand." 2. Henri Roca, MD, on "Functional Medicine Improves Patient Outcomes." 3. Cheng Ruan, MD, on "Functional Medicine Enhances Education and Practice."