Adding food allergy testing and treatment to your practice can bring it to a whole new level.
ARE YOU LOOKING TO IMPROVE YOUR CLINICAL OUTCOMES? Would you also like to increase your patient load and bottom line?
If so, consider adding food allergy treatment and testing to your practice. Of course, food allergy would not be a good fit for every practice. Generally, if you practice straight chiropractic, food allergy testing may not be for you. However, if you practice alternative medicine, wellness, nutritional medicine, anti-aging, or weight loss, food allergy treatment can add a new dimension to your practice.
From a financial standpoint, adding food allergy treatment to your practice makes sense for many reasons.
- It usually adds no or minimal overhead to the practice.
- You do not have much need — if any — to increase space or number of employees to implement a program.
- The profit margins for both testing and treatment are quite generous.
- It adds a new segment of the population to your practice.
Because food allergy treatment has been implicated in so many chronic ailments, you have the opportunity to create a niche practice specializing in headache or chronic fatigue, for example. If you do injection immunotherapy in the office, your patients will come regularly for many months or years.
It also gives you an opportunity to cross market. The new patients you bring in will also be exposed to the other things you do, and your existing patients will be exposed to this new service, too.
Know the basics
There are two main schools of allergy treatment in the medical world. One is composed of doctors certified by the Board of Allergy and Immunology and the other is doctors who follow the methodology of the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists.
In addition, there are alternative practitioners who do things that are outside the general parameters of both groups.
The allergy-immunology group generally favors skin testing over blood testing, and is very aggressive in their treatment approaches, using high doses and rapid buildup with allergy shots. In your practice, you would be focusing on the methods of the other two groups.
As practiced by the ENT doctors, there is acceptance of the idea that food allergy may be implicated in many illnesses that don’t have typical allergy symptoms, such as fibromyalgia. Treatments may begin with homeopathic doses and side effects are minimal.
Both groups use tests that measure the immunoglobulin E-mediated response to exposure to an antigen (called the allergen). The allergy/immunology docs often introduce the antigen through skin tests, whereas the other doctors use blood tests such as the RAST test.
There are also tests available that measure the immunoglobulin G response to allergens. Many alternative medicine doctors use these.
The mainstay of food allergy treatment is the elimination diet, which means that foods that test positive are removed from the diet. Foods that test weakly positive or negative are rotated on a regular basis to eliminate overexposure to any one food.
Both sublingual and injectable treatments for food allergies are available. The idea is to slowly build up exposure so that natural immunity to the allergen is created.
Food allergy immunotherapy is considered controversial and not recognized by the more conventional allergy doctors. Alternative practitioners, however, often get good results, especially when treating conditions like ADD and fatigue as opposed to classical allergies like hives.
Some companies will make up the treatment vials for you based on the test results you send them. If your allergy practice grows you may want to add an allergy nurse and make the vials yourself.
Insurance companies generally won’t reimburse for alternative allergy testing and treatments. Even for classical allergy treatment, reimbursement is down from what it was in the past. For this reason you should not accept assignment for allergy. It should be done as a cash-based service.
The best way to get started is to contact some of the labs that offer allergy testing services to doctors. Talk to colleagues who are doing food allergy in their offices, enlist the aid of a practice management consultant knowledgeable in allergy, and begin doing some basic homework.
It’s not for everyone, but if your practice is a good fit for adding food allergy testing and treatment, it can take it to a whole new level.