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.
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 is growing and gaining traction, insurance-based models are likely to become more mainstream.
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.
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. 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.
Low-Income & Underserved Practices
Due to the health insurance mandate and the rising gap between the rich and poor, a growing population of “health refugees” has emerged: either high insurance deductibles exclude patients from accessing health care—despite having an income—or they qualify for social programs with scarce funds and resources. Either way, 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.
Interested in a Career in Functional Medicine?
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