Functional Medicine Research: Quality of Life, Iterative Health, and the Therapeutic Partnership

Females Doctor Consultation
“We underestimate the power of our presence as compassionate co-journeyers with our patients.”

– David Jones, MD

The doctor-patient relationship is a crucial part of the healing process that can significantly impact patient health outcomes and overall quality of life. A study published in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders found that “the quality of communication during history-taking and management also affects outcomes (e.g., frequency of visits, emotional health, and symptom resolution) and that such communication extended beyond creation of the ‘plan.’”1 Improving doctor-patient communication shifts the patient from being a passive agent in their health care to an active one, allowing for equity in the relationship and a more engaged, personalized approach.

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Patients who are engaged during their visit are more satisfied and thus more likely to follow the treatment plan co-created with their healthcare professionals.2 Over time, this yields a higher quality of life as patients see improvements in physiological symptoms3 and emotional well-being. Long-term well-being requires the patient to self-manage outside of the clinical setting; empowering them to make changes in their daily life is a therapy in and of itself.

Establishing a collaborative, therapeutic partnership is one of the core foundations of Functional Medicine. According to research conducted at Cleveland Clinic, patients with chronic illness receiving care within the Functional Medicine framework reported a higher quality of life. The authors stated that “patients in the Functional Medicine center demonstrated improvements that were significantly larger compared with patients seen at a family health center,”4 although the results were not immediate. The study found no significant difference in quality of life after six months at either center; however, drastic differences were observable at the 12-month marker. Changes in patient health do not happen overnight, but rather are the result of continuity, collaboration, and communication.

In the following podcast, Dr. David Jones, MD, a thought leader in Functional Medicine, discusses the importance of nurturing the patient-doctor relationship to help guide the patient through their journey of healing.

Topics covered in this podcast include:

  • The value of the therapeutic partnership in practice.
  • How compassionate listening improves that relationship.
  • Empowering the patient to be active in the collaborative care relationship.
  • The role of emotional support systems.
  • Iterative healing and helping patients reframe past trauma.*

*Please note that this podcast briefly discusses a case involving the emotional trauma of sexual assault.

David Scott Jones, MD, is one of the co-founders of IFM and shaped the educational curriculum to increase the clinical utility of the approach. He is also a renowned family practice physician (now retired) who lives in Ashland, OR. He currently serves as president emeritus of the Board of Directors for IFM.


  1. Chipidza FE, Wallwork RS, Stern TA. Impact of the doctor-patient relationship. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015;17(5). doi:4088/PCC.15f01840
  2. Zolnierek KB, Dimatteo MR. Physician communication and patient adherence to treatment: a meta-analysis. Med Care. 2009;47(8):826-834. doi:1097/MLR.0b013e31819a5acc
  3. Kidd L. Better patient activation is a precursor to engagement in shared decision making. Evid Based Nurs. Published Online February 7, 2020. doi:1136/ebnurs-2019-103241
  4. Beidelschies M, Alejandro-Rodriguez M, Ji X, Lapin B, Hanaway P, Rothberg MB. Association of the functional medicine model of care with patient-reported health-related quality-of-life outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1914017. doi:1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14017