Functional medicine is frequently referred to as 4-P healthcare; Personalized, Proactive, Preventative and Predictive. It is personalized lifestyle medicine for those committed to living a healthier lifestyle without pharmaceutical dependency.
Functional medicine is a specialty of health care practice that evolved from physician’s desire to offer their patients a more proactive form of health care than what is taught in U.S. medical schools. This is not to suggest that medical education in the U.S. is inferior. With the increase of poor lifestyle choices; the standard American diet, lack of physical activity, stress and toxic environmental exposures, chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease and cognitive decline have dramatically increased. Unfortunately, current medical education has not adapted to these changes in public health. Seventy-one percent of U.S. medical schools offer less than 25 hours of nutrition education and 43% offer less than half of that.
The pharmaceutical industry became a critical link to the medical professions education beginning in the early 1950s. When this occurred, a shift in the doctor – patient relationship began to change as well. Gradually, as this one on one relationship eroded and treatment became focused on eradicating symptoms, little attention was directed to prevention. This approach to medical care combined with the insurance industry’s control of healthcare resulted in physician burnout. Disenchantment with the practices they were in, led to the grassroots evolution of functional medicine.
Physicians that are certified in functional medicine have committed to post graduate educational training that allows for greater doctor patient interaction. A functional medicine approach to health is a more favorable health care delivery system for the patient, the physician, the community and the world.
The most challenging part of a functional medicine practice is patient compliance. For today’s physician, it is much more time effective to prescribe a pill than teach a lifestyle change. This is especially true if the insurance industry reimburses the physician for an office visit that is properly coded and the drug that the doctor was taught to prescribed for that code. The insurance company is reluctant to pay the physician for the time to explain necessary lifestyle changes.
A certified functional medicine physician is trained and educated in recognizing the importance of the patients timeline of health from birth, in an effort to discover contributing factors leading to a decline in health. Only then can recommendations be offered to reverse chronic degenerative disease with consideration of lifestyle changes. Certified functional medicine physicians study lab results not only to see if those results fall within the “normal” value, but are educated to assist the patient to achieve optimal lab values. Values that suggest vibrant health.