The practice of medicine is both an art and a science, a calling and a trade, a path and a plan. As such, medical professionals may not have the luxury of concentrating solely on healing the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—but must create a balance between patient care and the demands of running a business. This can challenge even the most business-savvy clinician. For IFM educator Monique Class, APRN, who practices Functional Medicine with colleague Joel Evans, MD, in Stamford, CT, the business end of running a clinic was becoming increasingly demanding.
“I personally was great with being a teacher and being a clinician and keeping up on the research, but I didn’t know how to be a business person. We were never taught that,” says Ms. Class, a board certified family nurse practitioner and clinical nurse specialist in holistic health at The Center for Functional Medicine. “It’s a different part of your brain—you don’t think about it—so you go into medicine because you’re interested in healing and being with people, but you’re not focusing on the business end of things. And that’s where we were leaking energy.”
Joint or private practice comes with a multitude of obstacles to overcome and common mistakes to avoid. Clinicians must focus on many different areas outside of medicine, including sales and marketing, tax and legal advisors, office rent and utilities, business taxes, etc. Starting a medical practice is similar to launching any other small business, and the statistics aren’t promising. According to the US Small Business Administration, roughly 30% of new businesses fold within two years and 50% during the first five years.
How can clinicians better prepare themselves for success? In the following video, Ms. Class describes her experience as a student of the Kalish Institute, a practice implementation training program that teaches clinicians how to build a Functional Medicine practice through clinical and business courses. As part of the My Practice Plan course, Ms. Class learned everything from financial and business planning to sales and marketing.
“Those in private practice want to help people. That’s what we signed up for. However, most often, no one tells us what the entirety of the job entails,” says Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, founder of the Kalish Institute. “So I’m here to tell you that achieving your goal of relieving human suffering involves a blend of three things: people skills (or what I call patient communication), business skills, and clinical skills development and self-care. Occasionally, I’ll meet a practitioner who is naturally gifted in all three of these areas. These people are rare indeed. For the rest of us, we need to consciously address each of these components of running a Functional Medicine practice in order to succeed.”
The Kalish Institute’s My Practice Plan course focuses on three key areas of running a profitable and low-stress Functional Medicine practice, which Dr. Kalish calls the three Ps: Practitioners, Patients, and Practice—You, Your Cases, and Your Business Structure. Through online education, an active online community, and cases, medical professionals learn how to apply business development tools to improve patient acquisition and retention, rounding out their Functional Medicine education.
“When brought together in just the right way, the three Ps result in outstanding clinical results and financial success,” says Dr. Kalish. “Yet if there is one weak link in the chain, the entire endeavor falters. Lack of communication and sales skills combined with poor business management plague our profession and limit the potential of even the best-intentioned practitioners.”
The course helps clinicians put as much energy into developing the business side of the practice as they have already put into building their clinical skills. It also teaches clinicians how to focus on their own self-care, which often falls by the wayside when clinicians are so invested in caring for their patients. “Developing your strengths will yield incredible benefits,” says Dr. Kalish. “This includes you feeling great, you being healthy, and you developing spiritually and emotionally. Thus, your patients will get healthier, and your clinic will sustain you and your staff with financial stability.”
To learn more about the My Practice Plan program, read the following IFM-authored articles:
This IFM “Clinical Spotlight” showcases David Brady, ND, who describes what it’s like to practice Functional Medicine in a group clinical practice. “I think, in the IFM paradigm, it’s essential to get to know that patient; to connect with them and to really get a detailed history on where it all started,” says Dr. Brady. “So I will learn the antecedents and triggers, and all parts of their chronic disease process.”Read More
“Health coaching is helping clinicians and physicians to transform their practice to use more of a coaching approach. It helps doctors to become more proficient and eloquent in empowering the patient,” says IFM educator Kristi Hughes, ND, who uses a health coach as part of her Functional Medicine practice in Minnesota. Watch an IFM video describing how Dr. Hughes integrated health coaches into her practice.Read More