Daniel: Welcome to “The Future Adjustment,” Chiropractic Economics podcast series on what’s new and notable in the world of chiropractic. I’m Daniel Sosnoski, the Editor in Chief of Chiropractic Economics. And our guest today is Dr. Bill Hemmer. He’s the owner of the Tuscola Pain & Wellness Center in Tuscola, Illinois. And he’s been in practice for more than 28 years. In that time, he’s refined a compelling health care model, that combines chiropractic massage therapy, health coaching, and wholefood nutrition in an integrated way that points toward the future of medicine. We’ve talked before on this program about functional medicine and we’ve asked Dr. Hemmer to join us today because he’s really cracked the code on how to make this approach work in a modern thriving practice. Dr. Hemmer, welcome. I’d like to ask you to begin by just telling us how you came to learn about functional medicine and how you began to integrate that into your approach to chiropractic.
Dr. Hemmer: Okay. Well, thank you very much for adding me today, Daniel.
Dr. Hemmer: Really, in the 28 years that I have been in practice, I have been through five different clinics. And I got to Tuscola, which is a small town of about 4,500 people in the middle of these cornfields, about 21 years ago. And when I started and bought this practice, I became very quickly frustrated with all the chronic problems that wouldn’t go away with the normal everyday chiropractic care that I had been using and, really, used all my career.
So I started looking for other things that I could use in my practice to help these people start taking care of a lot of these great chronic problems that nobody else was taking care of. Because every one of those patients were looking for the answers other than drugs or surgery, but nobody was coming up with them. The other thing is, the patients were willing to pay for added value but they just wanted to look better, feel better, and live longer. And you and I both know that our current health care system is based on just rescue measures for acute diseases and illnesses. And so there is nothing really out there, until now, that allows our patients, for their lifespan to equal their healthspan.
Daniel: I see. And what kind of problems were you seeing with your patient base that were being stubborn and hard to treat?
Dr. Hemmer: Well, actually, what I’ve learned now is that there is no condition that a patient is not going to come in with that cannot be helped looking at a functional medicine approach. Everybody who comes in, they’re like, ” You know what? I have this and I have this and I have this.” And I said, “Okay, that’s fine. I am not gonna treat you as a condition. I’m gonna treat you as a person.”
And so if we look at the functional physiology of that individual and start at the basic bare-bones level, then all of a sudden, a lot of these other issues start going away. And what I’m really focusing on now is I tell my patients, “What is the one thing that we can do right now from a functional physiological point of view that is going to affect every other part of your life: functionally, structurally, mentally, physically?” Once we identify that one physiological thing that is going to help you the most, a lot of these other chronic conditions and all these different things that everybody else is telling you about will begin to go away. And you will feel better, live better, and live longer.
Daniel: Okay. Well, let me ask you for doctors who are just getting started with functional medicine and looking at adding that modality, what kind of challenges should they expect to encounter as they begin that journey in their own clinics?
Dr. Hemmer: Well, that’s a great question, Daniel. Because, really, everybody that I start to talk to them about this kind of thing, one of the first issues that everybody has is that you have to be okay with the patient and your community’s worldview of what chiropractic really is at this point. And it is we’re back-pain doctors. That’s what they know, that’s what they expect, and that’s where you have to start.
Still, 80 percent or 90 percent of the people that come into my office are still coming in for back pain. But then it becomes very quickly my job to say, “You know what? I wanna add more value, more things to this relationship we’re gonna build by looking all the way around your problem.” And saying, “You know what? We’re gonna look at the chemical side of your problem. We’re going to look at the structural side. We’re going to add all of these different components. If you really want your healthspan equal your lifespan, we can do that for you.”
Then the second part of the challenge is then having that education-based marketing plan that then allows you to educate them and add that further value to that patient account . Because those patients really have no idea what you can do and how much you can help them unless you have some sort of a technological way to drip market on them. Because we all…everybody learns by spaced repetition. So you have to be able to have your message done in a very strategic way, in a very strategic form that then allows them to start to come to their own realization, that you are the trusted authority of everything health-related in your community. And you do that by spaced repetition, by auto-responders, by websites, by landing pages, all of the technology that is available to us now but doing it in such a way that you are always on their side. You are just nurturing that relationship so that they can turn around and use the information that you have freely given them and come back to you and say,”You know, Doc, I’m ready to take control of my own health again.” And then be able to say, “Okay. When you’re ready, then we will tackle this problem that you have better than any other kind of practitioner that you’ve been able to find.”
Daniel: Right. And one thing that became apparent early on as I began learning about functional medicine was that it does require a style of practice that may be a little difficult at first for the doctor who’s used to a high volume practice of moving a lot of patients, you know, a high throughput in the practice. Whereas, the functional approach requires a longer intake process, more doctor-patient interaction. And you’re probably going to be seeing a lower volume of patients, but the ones that you do see are going to be able to probably bill them more or see them for a longer amount of time. And my understanding is that one way that you’ve found to make that work is a membership model of practice. In fact, you’ve written about that for us in the magazine to explain how that works. Can you tell us a little bit about the membership model and how that kind of locks all these pieces together for you?
Dr. Hemmer: Absolutely. You know, the real key to taking them through that nurture sequence… Because, really, Daniel, I’m still treating as many patients as I did, just with chiropractic model.
Daniel: Oh, really.
Dr. Hemmer: What I’ve been able to do is then use technology and use all of these educational marketing pieces to say, “You know what? That is a great question,” as am talking to my patient. “I have a video,” or, “I have a whitepaper that I’ve created that will go through every one of these questions that you’re having. And then the next time you come in, you and I can discuss it.”
So using technology and using all of the things that are available to us now really help that whole model going forward. The key to the membership program is having an operational system that allows you to answer all of those questions in a very simple way, using very simple communication styles that then allow them to say, “Okay, how much is a membership gonna cost me? How much… how long will it take? How complicated is it gonna be?” All of these different things so that then, once they get to the point where they’re saying, “You know what? I’m really ready to take full control of my health,” then the membership model becomes this very simple, easy way for them to say, “All right. I’m ready to pull the trigger on this. I’m ready to take control of my health and get rid of all these chronic diseases that have been bothering me forever and ever. You’re the only person who has said to me, ‘There is hope. There is help,’ but I have to take control of my health.” And so myself and my health coach, that is our only job at that point.
And so they still come in as a member and come through and get their chiropractic done. But then also, then turn around and have a very good conversation with myself and my health coach, but by having a health coach available in my practice, I’m still able to do my classic chiropractic care, the thing that’s still my bread and butter, but then turn around and then have this added value that all of the patients that are doing it are having fantastic results with. And, as you know, in any small town, that is what’s gonna make or break your practice. And I’ve been here 21 years, so I guess I’m doing all right.
Daniel: All right. Well, let’s turn to patient outcomes. What kind of conditions are you addressing with your practice model? And I also note that you’ve been having success with a weight-loss program.
Dr. Hemmer: Oh, absolutely. Because, really, weight loss occurs when health returns. I mean, I currently have three people, with one guy who is actually an amputee who has been working with me for less than six months, he’s lost 70 pounds. I have another gal who is in her late 30s who has tried everything, and we’ve all heard that before, to lose weight. And she’s lost 60 pounds in less than six months. But there again… And then the third person is I have this little, old lady who has who has been working with me for less than three months now, and she’s lost 30 pounds and has never been able to do this before.
And it’s really due to the fact that we’re not worrying so much about the scale as much as their health. And every one of them had a different one thing that we had to start working on. The guy, his one thing was his pituitary gland. The woman, the younger woman’s one thing was the leaky gut syndrome. The older woman’s one thing was her thyroid gland.
So there’s all of these different little nuances that you… once you start to create a system that will look at all these different things in a systematic way, becomes really very simple to lay out for your patients. But then as you…as everybody on this podcast knows, the patient has to be the one to take control of it. And the… always the hardest part of any kind of situation or any practice system is being able to create that ability to get that person to motivate themselves. Because we can never do it for them, but we can be there for them. And if we nurture that whole process along and they get to the point where it’s a trigger for them, everybody wins.
Daniel: You know, just to reiterate that for our listeners, I wanna stress the importance of what you just explained here. There were three patients who each was having a problem with excess weight, and yet, the cause of the weight gain for each of the three patients was different. And the functional medicine approach allowed you to isolate what each person’s separate issue was. And by addressing that, they each achieved their goal of weight loss. Whereas, if you are using a weight-loss system or model that’s a kind of a one-size-fits-all, you may help one person, but you might not be able to help the other two. So that really kind of says a lot about how functional medicine achieves its successes. Well, let me ask you now about future goals, where you’re headed. Are there any new areas or approaches that you’re investigating?
Dr. Hemmer: Oh, absolutely. And this is…I am so excited because for the first time in my career, now I can take somebody’s immune response and ramp it up and take care of what has been termed lately as “the stealth pathogens.” And what I mean by that is you got people with chronic viral disease, you got people with chronic bacterial disease, you have all of these pathogens that nobody has been able to really address and effectively take care of. And now, there’s new technology that’s coming online and there’s new supplements that are coming online that allow me to say, “You know what? I know that you’ve been chronically sick for 10,15, 20 years. But I can start to take the viral soup or the pathogen soup that you have inside of you right now and start draining that bowl so that you can start to get your health back.” And I’m telling you what, Daniel, it is fantastic in the results. And this technology and these supplements have only been around for less than two months. And I’m seeing fantastic results already with multiple patients on things that I’ve never been able to effectively treat before. So it is very, very exciting stuff.
Daniel: That sounds like something that may be worth exploring in the pages of “Chiropractic Economics.” Say, you know, over a century ago, Thomas Edison said, and this is a quote, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” And it sounds like you’re the kind of doctor that he was describing.
Dr. Hemmer: You know, I sure hope so because what I know is that everybody, the patients, the doctors, everybody understands that the current health care model that we have does not work for chronic disease. It is fantastic for acute illness and for injury. We’re the best in the world. But we’re number 11 in the world when it comes down to treating chronic disease. The new model, the functional medicine model that we are describing here is exactly what is gonna be necessary to take all of our health to the next level so that we can live long, happy lives.
Daniel: Very good. Well, Dr. Hemmer, I’d like to thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This has been really quite informative. And you’ve given us a functional look at “The Future Adjustment.” I’m Daniel Sosnoski and we’ll see you next time. Thank you so much, Dr. Hemmer.