Stop guessing and start testing” is what today’s fitness experts are saying. However, one problem with most fitness and nutrition programs is they are generic and are not individualized. The key to success and long-term results is to use a program specific for your patients’ individual needs. The best way to individualize a program is to obtain an accurate and reliable fitness assessment by testing.
Physiology testingthat is, percent body fat (%BF), cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max), strength (one repetition max), caloric needs and morealong with specific exercise and nutrition prescriptions can be an expensive endeavor. With fees soaring upwards of $1,200 in some labs, testing can be both cost prohibitive and oftentimes inaccessible for many. Yet, with new advances in technology, physiology testing can now be conducted in your office without the need for expensive equipment or additional personnel. In fact, using a specially developed software program can make it so easy to use that you can make the recommendation for testing and then have an outside facilitator (office staff, personal trainer, etc.) perform the testing while charging fees from $100 to $250 per work-up. This frees you up to see more patients while creating a new source of income: in-house physiology testing.
Simplicity is the key to successfully implementing a new service into your practice. Physiology testing can now be conducted easily without the need for thousands of dollars of special equipment. For example %BF can be done through a series of body measurements that have been scientifically proven to be within the accuracy of less than 0.5% of hydrostatic weighing (the standard for %BF testing). Also, VO2max can be calculated by measuring the distance the patient can run/walk for twelve minutes (this can easily be done on a treadmill).
The collected data is then entered into a special software program and all the interpretations and recommendations are calculated for you. In fact, you can give your patient the instructions and worksheets to do the testing at home and then have them come back with the data. You can then do the interpretation of results on a subsequent visit.
The relationship of a person’s %BF, VO2max, and so forth to make proper recommendations for diet and exercise may not be widely known, but it makes sense to have an accurate baseline in order to establish the proper direction of your patients’ programs. The knowledge of the correlation of %BF, VO2max, etc. is crucial in order to stimulate the proper metabolic pathways to achieve the results your patients want.
For example, let’s say you have two women who are the same height and weight. The first woman is 35 years old with %BF of 20% and a VO2 of 45. The second woman is 25 years old with a %BF of 27% and a VO2 of 27. Would you give these two women the same program prescription? Of course not, so how do you go about designing a program that is specific for each of their metabolisms? Without the aid of a software program the task is not impossible, but it can be time-consuming, requiring an advanced knowledge of nutrition, as well as physiology and biochemistry.
Many chiropractors already provide some nutritional counseling, but without a software program it is not always a time-effective endeavor. Diane Curtis-Hutchins, DC, says, “Before, it took me hours to do a nutritional analysis for a patient, taking into account all of the health factors involved. I had to research through several nutrition manuals and did not have an accurate means to test the patient. Now I can perform both the patient testing and do an interpretation in less than thirty minutes.”
Another advantage? According to Dr. Curtis-Hutchins, “I can help more patients in less time. I also offer physiology testing and nutritional analysis services to other doctors in my area who either do not offer these services or do not have the ability to do them.”
Nutritional supplements are a part of many existing practices, but is there a way to make proper recommendations without spending a lot of time analyzing the patient? Yes. Specific diet prescriptions along with a software program can offer vitamin and mineral recommendations and provide a printed report of analysis. This is a powerful tool to promote nutritional products by giving patients both a verbal and visual stimulus.
How many times have you lamented, “I have all these great supplements, but don’t quite know how to market them,” and the same items continue to stagnate on the shelves for months. By offering physiology testing, your patients will also become re-educated as they see the importance and benefits of a well-balanced health maintenance program that improves their quality of life.
Studies show that patients will want to re-test. In fact, approximately 90% of patients tested will come back for re-testing to chart their progress. This is a great motivational tool for your patients and re-testing will also keep them coming into your office on a regular basis.
With the implementation of any testing program, it is critical to first look at some important criteria.
- Does the service provide a benefit that is in the best interest of the patient?
- Does it make good business sense?
- Is it an ethical program?
- Is the program easy to use?
There are numerous software programs and assessment tests on the market, but some tests can be tedious and time-consuming for both patient and doctor. Further, keep in mind that some testing interpretations are based on the knowledge of each particular doctor.
With the abundance of new practitioners and changes in health insurance programs, there is increased competition for the health care dollar. It is important to seek alternate marketplaces and offer services that set you apart above the rest. With the new software available for testing programs, you can now access the knowledge and expertise of an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, biochemist, kinesiologist and a top personal trainer in one easy-to-use platform.
Someone once said that if you keep your attention on people, money and things will follow. Oftentimes we get into the mode of “surviving” or “fixing” and our attention shifts to money and things, while people become the last priority. This usually is not an empowering situation for anyone. For health care professionals, the premise is to serve people to help them with their health care needs. The advancements in new tools allow you to help more people in less timeenabling both doctor and patient to achieve a better quality of life.