Blog Post

3 lessons from Cleveland Clinic's successful foray into 'functional medicine'

December 17, 2019

    Although new and somewhat controversial, functional medicine provides an innovative care model to capture the shopping consumer. In fact, an estimated 30% of Cleveland Clinic's functional medicine patients are new to the system, suggesting this care model could drive provider selection for some patients. By investing in a holistic medical offering, early movers will be able to get in on the ground floor of the growing demand for complementary and alternative medicine, which is estimated to reach a value of $196.9 billion by 2025, according to ReportLinker.

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    What is functional medicine?

    At its core, functional medicine integrates traditional allopathic practices with root cause analysis of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle determinants of health to better understand factors that shape complex chronic diseases.

    However, the clinical efficacy of functional medicine has not been researched extensively, which has caused a bit of controversy over its place in health care. But a recent two-year study published by JAMA in 2019 lends some credibility to the practice. Compared with patients at a family health center, patients in Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine exhibited significantly larger and more sustained improvements in patient-reported health scores as reported by the PROMIS measurement system.

    What you can learn from Cleveland Clinic's success

    In 2014, Cleveland Clinic became one of the first major institutions to invest in a formal Center for Functional Medicine. Due to insatiable patient demand, the organization has since opened two additional centers, created disease-specific group programs to accommodate demand for appointments, and expanded its care team from four to more than 40 caregivers. Overall, the center sees roughly 26,000 patients annually, up from the 900 patients seen during the center's first year of operation.

    At Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, new patients can expect 60-minute appointments with a multidisciplinary care team consisting of a physician, registered dietitian, health coach, and behavioral health therapist. These clinicians create a detailed history of a patient's long-term health by looking at interactions among various genetic and environmental factors to create a personalized care plan. Patients also have the option to enter one of their six disease-specific patient programs, such as Functioning for Life, which allows patients to attend group appointments with peers suffering from similar conditions such as Digestive Disorders. Other programs, such as their minority men's health and pediatric programs, cater to the unique needs of different consumer segments.

    The success of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine highlights the potential impact that an investment in a more holistic care offering can have on your patient volumes and experience. Here are three lessons from Cleveland Clinic's functional medicine program that you can use to capture select shopping consumers.

    1. By implementing a diverse, team-based approach to care, patients receive a more high-touch care experience with the clinical expertise from multiple disciplines.

    2. Disease-specific programs focused on distinct consumer segments and shared group appointment blocks are not only consumer satisfiers, but also offer a solution to the typically overloaded panel size of providers.

    3. Include an evaluation of external factors, such as genetic, social, and environmental factors, to personalize patients’ treatment plans.

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