Why is there such a disparity between the passion providers have when exposed to integrative and functional medicine (IFM) and their ability put integrative and functional medicine into practice? Why aren’t there more IFM practices, including small group practices that offer providers a better quality of life? e3Business has explored these questions and identified the following challenges to practicing IFM:

  1. The market for IFM is still emerging. Patient demand for IFM is growing, but most of the general population is still unaware of IFM and the benefits it offers. The nature of IFM also makes defining IFM difficult, which leads to confusion about what is–and what isn’t–IFM.
  2. Integrative and functional medicine lacks a viable, sustainable and scalable practice platform. Most IFM providers practice in a concierge practice model. Concierge practices may be viable for established physicians able to convert their current patient population, (which often requires dismissing 80-90% of a practice’s patients), but establishing a new concierge practice can be capital intensive. Sustaining and scaling a concierge practice are also capital intensive. For more on the concierge practice model, CLICK HERE.
  3. The healthcare system does not align financial incentives. With the traditional healthcare system’s focus on paying for quantity of care in managing populations rather than individual quality care, today’s system is more about population management than the personalized quality care supported by IFM. As many providers have discovered, simply implementing IFM doesn’t make independent practices financially viable. Independent practices have to remodel their practices in response to their market to make the practice of IFM financially possible.

Of course, it complicates matters that healthcare is governed by Byzantine regulations that threaten financial penalties and imprisonment for providers who run afoul of regulations. It also doesn’t help that vendors can have a myopic perspective of the implementation of IFM that makes it difficult to address individual practice’s needs. Finally, banks and other lenders often lack an appreciation for the possibilities of an IFM practice, so providers have to be creative in supporting themselves and their practice.

Considering all of the above, perhaps the first question should have been, “Why WOULD a provider pursue an IFM practice at this time?” It certainly doesn’t look like it makes sense. The market is not ready, there’s no established practice platform and practices struggle to build financial success from IFM. Why would providers chose to enter this market?

IFM providers know the answer. Once exposed to IFM, many providers feel that they can’t practice medicine any other way. Practicing IFM isn’t a choice. IFM is a calling. e3Business understands this and works with providers to pursue their dream while minimizing risks.