Patient Demand is Mainstreaming Integrative & Functional Medicine

As the “un-recruiter” for Integrative and Functional Medicine providers, I am regularly asked what I see happening in the industry. For several years I’ve waited and can finally report I’m seeing an increasing number of opportunities as the field grows.

Society is mainstreaming Integrative and Functional Medicine.
I see this bandwagon rolling along nicely now. This growth is in response to the demand of the patients who are not getting their health care needs met through the conventional model of medicine.

Integrative and Functional Medicine is breaking through the conventional barriers as a growing number of providers and patients are choosing patient-centered care.

A Growing Number of Providers

I talk to physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who pursue Integrative and Functional Medicine training because they are not able to provide the patient-focused care necessary to heal and educate patients. They seek training in the field because they want the freedom to practice medicine as it should be, through prevention, education and the treatment of the cause of illness. They seek additional training to do this investing their own time and finances.

The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine Fellowship Program began in 1997 with 2 graduates per year. Since then the Fellowship has graduated nearly 1000 physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants with about 120 new graduates per year. The Institute of Functional Medicine continues to grow as well and reports attendance at their Annual International Conference jumped 45% from 2012 to 2013.

Medical schools are also answering to the demand. In 2008 The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine launched its Integrative Medicine in Residency program. By 2012, 33 institutions adopted the curriculum. The Institute of Functional Medicine reports faculty from one-fifth of medical schools in the US have attended their foundational training course, Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice. And The Consortium of Academic Health Center for Integrative Medicine now has 57 highly esteemed academic medical centers in their membership.

Some of these trained providers are establishing their own practices and experiencing immediate practice growth in response to the demand.

A Growing Number of Established Practices

I reach out to Integrative and Functional Medicine practices regularly to build my business. I make many more contacts today than I did two years ago, or even a year ago. My list of practices grows every week and these practices are growing organically.

I’ve worked with practices across the nation that have grown simply by word of mouth and seek my help to source an additional provider. They are in the West, mid-West, East, suburban and rural settings, and many times in less progressive communities.

I’ve also worked with practices in larger cities that have utilized strong marketing efforts to build their practices, and it has worked. Their increase in patient load required that that they hire additional providers.

In both instances the practices continue to grow by word of mouth because this medicine actually gets people better, PLUS, they stay better. The word is spreading from the patients whose experience is the evidence and proof it is effective.

Hospitals are responding to the demand as well. A 2011 American Hospital Association report found that 42 percent of surveyed hospitals offer one or more Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) services with their conventional services.

A Collective Action

Some of the most transformative shifts in our country have happened without any initiation from the government. The Green movement, organic movement, women’s suffrage and the abolishment of slavery, all broke through the conventional barriers from the collective action of people working towards a common goal.

The Integrative and Functional Medicine collective action is the catalyst for the movement towards patient-centered care. “The People” are leading the movement and with more providers available, more patients will find optimal health and the word will continue to spread.

Future of Healthcare

Integrative and Functional Medicine is the future of healthcare. The only solution to achieving optimal health is through personalized health care that addresses the cause of the illness and the mind, body, spirit and environmental factors impacting health.

In the midst of health care reform, a shortage of primary care physicians, and an overweight and chronically ill country, it’s important to acknowledge some good that is happening. The good is this field of medicine is growing. We have more providers available to spend the necessary time with patients to provide the patient-centered care required to achieve health.

Understanding we have a long road ahead, I am encouraged by the shift that is happening. In the words of Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” and the steps “The People” are taking will make Integrative and Functional Medicine the standard of care. Integrative and Functional Medicine is meeting the demands of the people and healing our health care system one practitioner and one patient at a time.