Functional medicine has come a long way since the concept was first introduced in the early 1950s as a form of alternative medicine. As the 1960s and 1970s dragged on, it continued to gain recognition slowly but surely. It was during this era in which functional medicine began to take shape as a practice that offers real results to those who are suffering from different medical conditions.

During a time in which millions of people were afflicted by many diseases and traditional medical practice did not offer a real solution to the problem, some progressive healers and medical practitioners started to explore alternative medicine as another way of giving patients better outcomes from their diagnoses.

More research has been done over the years and the results convinced more medical practitioners to embrace functional medicine as a real practice.

What is functional medicine?
The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) defines the practice as “an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach that empowers patients and practitioners to work together to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness.”

Unlike traditional medical practice—in which treatments only address the symptoms of a disease—functional medicine focuses on the root cause of the problem and correlates it with different biological and environmental factors.

It allows for a more individualized treatment plan that offers better outcomes, especially for patients suffering from chronic medical conditions.

What are the benefits of functional medicine?
Functional medicine takes a more holistic approach in addressing a patient’s medical condition using the “GOTOIT” framework, which means “Gather, Organize, Tell, Order, Initiate and Track.”

This strategy allows a practitioner to gain a deeper understanding of the disease, identify the real cause of the problem, initiate a personalized treatment plan, and establish a strong relationship with patients.

Functional medicine also offers many other benefits such as:
 
  • A more accurate diagnosis. Traditional medicine follows the book when diagnosing medical conditions. Nevertheless, functional medicine aims to change the old perspectives with the belief that each patient is unique and that having a set of symptoms does not necessarily qualify the individual for a particular disease.
 
  • A more personalized approach to treatment. Functional medicine practitioners will not just check on a patient and recommend medications right away. Instead, they take the time to do a thorough assessment of a patient’s medical, personal, and social history to know the different factors contributing to their condition. From this diagnosis, a more personalized approach to treatment is initiated to cure the root cause of the disease and promote wellness through lifestyle modifications.
 
  • A better perspective of health and wellness. The goal of functional medicine is not only to treat the disease but also to allow patients to take charge of their own health. That is why practitioners always work with their patients throughout the treatment plan to ensure that they can look after their health in the long run.

How does functional medicine help patients?
Functional medicine has grown in popularity throughout the years because of how it helped many patients live a better quality of life. This practice emphasizes using various diagnostic techniques and laboratory technologies to give patients a clear picture of what they have.

It focuses on using a combination of traditional medications, supplements, exercise regimens, nutritional plans, detoxification techniques, and stress management strategies that treat diseases and prevent further complications through proper nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle.

Functional medicine aims to eliminate the notion that diseases can only be prevented through the prolonged use of drugs. Instead, it promotes an approach that focuses on healing and long-term wellness.

Why are more pharmacists embracing functional medicine?
Over the years, pharmacists have come to embrace functional medicine as part of their practice.

In fact, functional medicine pharmacists play a crucial role in the proper implementation of functional medicine because they are able to ensure the best results from the treatment plan of patients through a more functional approach to care.

Unlike traditional medical practice, functional medicine allows pharmacists to expand their role as advisers and counselors to patients when they visit the pharmacy.

Pharmacists can spend more time with patients and offer them a more personalized service through which they can ask about their adherence to medications, if they are following lifestyle change recommendations, and how they are coping with their treatment plans.

This helps to empower pharmacists in their roles as part of the health care team, which is often neglected and overshadowed by physicians and nurses.

Why should pharmacy owners include functional medicine in their pharmacy?
As more functional medicine pharmacists are starting to appreciate the value of functional medicine to their practice, pharmacy owners should also begin to incorporate this to their pharmacies to offer a more complete service to their clients.

As one of the functional medicine healthcare providers, pharmacies are considered to be at the forefront of ensuring that functional medicine is adequately implemented to maximize their benefits and promote a healthier lifestyle to patients.

How does functional medicine help pharmacy owners against pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)?
PBMs are third-party administrators that manage prescription drug benefits programs. Although their purpose was originally to allow easier processing of claims on behalf of clients, PBMs have turned their job into a business by profiting at every stage of the sales process and causing considerable losses to pharmacies and even patients.

Also called the “invisible middleman,” a PBM usually acts for the patient’s insurance company and liaises with the pharmacy that it pays to dispense prescription medications.   

With functional medicine, pharmacy owners can enjoy more transparent and straightforward transactions while eliminating the losses caused by PBMs. They can offer more personalized care to patients without dealing with the third-party agents charging them and taking money from patients.

As more health care professionals embrace functional medicine, it is also playing a more important role in the future of medical practice as a whole.

If you want to learn more about functional medicine and its benefits to your practice, you can join Functional Medicine Group for free and share your insights with other practitioners.

Email us at info@functionalmedicinegroup.com or contact us at 813-739-9101.

Author:
Briyce Lyndum, Functional Medicine Group Content Manager

References
  1. Functional Medicine: IFM. (2019, December 17). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.ifm.org/functional-medicine/
  2. Home. (n.d.). Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://kalishinstitute.com/blog/functional-medicine-functional-medicine-doctors/