We are featured in the Winter 2016 edition of The Movement, The Institute for Functional Medicine’s Quarterly Update. Reprinted below with permission.
As healthcare costs continue to rise, many employers have struggled to keep up. The direct and indirect costs to employers of chronic illnesses such as insulin resistance, insomnia, back pain, depression, and others have been rising for years. In addition, the high stress level of many jobs can reinforce or worsen many of these health problems—60% of Americans report that their job is a source of significant stress. 1
Promoting Workplace Health Functional Medicine practitioners are positioned to step into the clinical gap between corporate wellness programs and employee health management. What if there were health and wellness centers on the campus of every large employer? At these centers, practitioners could use Functional Medicine principles to help prevent employees from developing chronic diseases and help those who have them return to health.
Sonja Horner, President and CEO of LeadHealth, is working toward such a world, one in which Functional Medicine empowers workers to “live well longer.” She sees Functional Medicine as a natural fit for treating and preventing chronic disease—and a solution that many employers understand can attract and retain employees, enhance organizational morale, and improve their bottom line.
Self-insured employers pay a heavy price for symptom-suppression medicine. The irony is that in every other facet of their businesses, they apply root-cause analysis to solve problems. Functional Medicine allows them to apply this commonsense approach to chronic disease.
President and CEO of LeadHealth
Through providing workplace centers that offer targeted patient education, onsite IFM-trained physicians, and a healthy attitude and environment, LeadHealth has started to see results among early-adopter employers. Physicians at their centers generally see 500–600 patients a year and focus on disease prevention and healthy lifestyle choices. Of particular interest to employers is the unique ability for Functional Medicine to impact high-cost claimants. These patients have
historically been considered far too complex to be helped through a worksite clinic, but are responding to Functional Medicine in the workplace setting.
“We place a high priority on reaching and engaging health plan members with complex chronic disease, and the results have been impressive thus far,” says Cynthia West, MD, the IFM-trained physician staffing the first LeadHealth center.
Functional Medicine isn’t a spectator sport—you have to get involved!
Cynthia West, MD
West formerly worked in a conventional nephrology practice and struggled to apply her Functional Medicine training in that setting. She jumped at the opportunity to launch the nation’s first Functional Medicine worksite clinic. In this new setting, her time is divided between two stimulating
and rewarding functions: a clinical role, working with patients as both a physician and health coach; and an educator role, conducting workshops and lunch-and-learn activities. She loves the work, particularly the intellectual challenge and the patient interactions: “Patients feel so much better!”
The Functional Health and Well-Being Center in Middletown, Pennsylvania, opened in November 2015 at Phoenix Contact, Inc. To date, 76% of employees who have used the LeadHealth center have opted to shift to a Functional Medicine approach to managing their health. The clinic sees approximately equal numbers of male and female patients, with ages ranging from the early twenties to late sixties.
LeadHealth is looking for Functional Medicine physicians, nurse practitioners, and medical assistants for its next onsite clinic that is slated to open in May, as well as for its Functional Medicine telemedicine team. There’s much more to come in the employer health arena!
1. APA. Stress in America: paying with our health. 2015; Feb 4. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf Accessed 2/16/2016