The field of functional medicine (FM) is growing rapidly within chiropractic
It is showing promise not only as it relates to life-saving results but also as a tool that allows DCs to reshape their financial future. In addition, FM also allows the DC to interact with the 90 percent of the population that does not use chiropractic services.
To understand whether FM fits into the profession of chiropractic depends on your stance. The long-standing debate between mixers and straights continues to exist in the profession.
Interestingly, parties on both sides of the issue have given value to the profession as a whole, with fervent advocates for straight chiropractic working to preserve the heart of a great profession. The mixer approach
has expanded the profession into many new areas.
To understand whether functional medicine training has a place in chiropractic depends on what this clinical model offers the profession and the patient population. FM is a clinical model in which the practitioner treats the patient as an individual, finds the root cause (mechanism) for their health problems through comprehensive diagnostic testing, and constructs a customized treatment plan for each patient. The doctor then prescribes nutritional supplements, dietary programs, chiropractic adjustments, and various lifestyle modifications to remove the interference to self-healing.
Indeed, it sounds a lot like chiropractic. We can call it “Functional Medicine,” clinical nutrition, or chiropractic. The bottom line is that it works for the patient. It’s what the broader patient population (the 90 percent) wants and needs, the patient is willing to pay out of pocket for the service, and it gets patients into the practice.
When applied mindfully, FM can remind you of the authentic chiropractic philosophy that started a great profession. This re-connection with your roots and core philosophy has the potential to reinvigorate the spirit of individual chiropractors and inspire the masses to take a fresh look at the profession.
It’s all about how chiropractic decides to get the word out to the marketplace. For the profession to grow and substantially serve, it must consider redefining itself to comprehensively address the needs of the marketplace while maintaining its unique and authentic philosophy. A behind-the-scenes look at FM in a chiropractic office should make this clear.
Marketing to mega niches
One of the many strengths of FM is that it allows the doctor to communicate with patients who suffer from chronic conditions and respond quite favorably to an FM-plus-chiropractic approach.
One way for chiropractic to expand its market share is to meet the patient base where they are so that you can take them where they ultimately need to be.
Clearly, chronic disease is what the masses are dealing with, and the “mainstream” drug therapy model of healthcare is failing miserably in this arena. These failures have created a huge gap that the chiropractic profession can easily and effectively fill.
Compared to other healthcare professions, chiropractic is better equipped philosophically and educationally to serve the needs of the chronically ill. Turning your attention to the chronically ill will not only reconnect you to your core philosophy and purpose but will also allow chiropractic to make its greatest contribution.
A common and necessary practice for chiropractors practicing in an FM model is the use of diagnostic testing. Thorough testing allows you to form an objective opinion about what the root causes of the presenting problem may be. Not only are the tests valuable on a clinical level but they allow you to communicate with the patient in a way that is familiar.
Typical testing includes blood, urine, saliva, and stool. It should be noted that most clinics do not perform such testing in house but rather refer the patient to an outside laboratory. The analysis and presentation of laboratory findings coupled with a thorough explanation as to why each patient is dealing with poor health is a compelling experience for the patient. They have an opportunity to discover the level of detail that will shape their care, and immediately begin to develop a comfort level with the skill level of the DC.
Chiropractors working in an FM model report having an easier time with new patient acquisition and their willingness to pay out of pocket. Treatment plans on average are structured for six months, with the patient paying up front for care upon admission. The average case fee can range from $8,500 to $12,000 with daily office visits ranging from $375 to $500.
Although each doctor is free to set fees according to his or her comfort level, it is helpful that there is tremendous flexibility available when setting prices in an FM model. Finally, it is worth noting that the average lifetime value of a functional medicine patient can be anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000.
The first place every chiropractor should look is within. After all, chiropractic is philosophically oriented to grasp and implement FM, because it provides an educational foundation that serves as a platform for more advanced clinical knowledge and application.
There are many post-graduate programs that offer excellent opportunities to expand your clinical toolbox with functional medicine training. And there are several educational programs sponsored by reputable supplement companies that can provide a less formal introduction to the clinical material.
Many of the most successful chiropractic-plus-FM practices have connected with a coach or mentor. This can be useful for understanding the real-life clinical applications of FM, plugging into an established and successful business model, masterminding with like-minded chiropractors, and ensuring that marketing efforts remain fresh and effective.
There are many ways that chiropractors can increase their impact on their communities and, in turn, expand their practices. It certainly appears that the clinical and business model of functional medicine is allowing many chiropractors to serve in a new way that allows the individual chiropractic practice to grow, which will effectively help those patients who have life-altering and life-threatening conditions.
The current healthcare gap created by the immense dysfunction of the dominant model has created the opportunity for chiropractic to make its greatest contribution yet.
Brandon Credeur, DC, is a 2002 graduate of Parker University and a leader in the space of Functional Medicine. He has treated over 5,000 individual cases and has been indirectly involved with thousands of other cases all over the U.S. In addition to his substantial contributions in patient care, he has guided hundreds of clinicians to success. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through functionalmedicineaccelerator.com.