Improving the Health of the Integrative Health Enterprise

By Glenn Sabin

My recent posts on why integrative and functional medicine practices often fail, and how to go about mastering a ‘sales funnel’ to build patient volume, elicited a lot of positive feedback—as much as any articles I’ve written over the last few years.
Could this be because more folks within the integrative health community are recognizing that integrative clinical prowess that is not equally matched to persistent business acumen does not make for a winning business strategy? I certainly hope so.

What I Have Learned Through Advising Others

Since launching FON I’ve had opportunities to consult with scores of enterprises with myriad interests categorized under the integrative health umbrella: from solopreneurs, clinics, hospitals and health systems, to nutraceutical manufacturers and media companies.

The organizations and individuals I’ve been honored to serve hail from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. What I’ve observed is that the vision and mission of these well-intentioned enterprises are often philosophically aligned. Their leaders advocate for true prevention over procedures: health creation via lifestyle change and practicing root cause medicine.

However, the communities these companies serve, and their chosen business models, vary widely. This regularly observed business variance invariably extends to the level of sophistication in marketing and business development owners and management bring to building their respective practices and organizations.

My Responsibility to the Field

My job—and the reason why FON exists—is to communicate to as large an audience as possible about the business of integrative health, and to offer ways in which an organization can be best positioned or repositioned for consistent growth and prosperity. I go about this work through my consulting practice and by consistently writing, teaching, and engaging those in the field. (If you are not a FON subscriber, please sign up.)

By leading hundreds of complimentary one-on-one exploratory calls with integrative health professionals, and with those looking to enter the field, I continue to hear about the most pressing challenges, and some unique and interesting projects. It affords an incredible overview through which to evaluate the best opportunities for each entrepreneur and/or clinic to flourish.

In many cases the exploratory process focuses on an individual’s career or how one’s personal brand and level of thought leadership is positioned within the integrative health community—and/or the greater medical community at large.

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While many of these discussions have resulted in formal business relationships, this has been secondary to my primary interest to ‘pay it forward’ by helping organizations and individuals with actionable baseline recommendations—often gleaned from a short call. It has also been an invaluable learning experience for me.

Doing Well By Doing Good

Over the years, one common denominator across most of the organizations I’ve formally advised is that most want to ‘do well by doing good’. They didn’t decide to enter the integrative health space and create a clinic, advocate for a new (integrative) service line within their institution, or develop a portfolio of healthy products or services to necessarily make a fortune. These benevolent and highly-invested individuals set out to make an honest living while serving a growing void in the quest to improve population health through the teachings of whole person care.

It’s important to note that many working in the integrative health sector have personal life experience with overcoming a medical challenge—they have discovered and utilized an integrative approach to regain their own health. You can count me within this group.

Turning Business Disadvantages into Advantages

The business of medicine is real—and large. Just because you deliver your brand of medicine just beyond (for now) the mainstream standard of care does not make your business interests less important or less urgent to attend to than the specialist down the street.

Indeed, you need to become more business savvy than your conventional medical delivery counterparts because you are practicing a model of care that requires educating your patients and clients. This is often attempted without a clear line from time investment to remuneration.

Heretofore, teachers have not been the most highly paid professionals. If you are an integrative health practitioner or physician delivering high value care, you are a teacher. Imagine that—a doctor as teacher; not unlike the original definition of the noble profession.

Teaching and Learning

I posit that effective integrative health clinicians, across disciplines, do a lot more teaching than conventional practitioners who tend to—within a few minutes of chitchat—have one foot in an exam room, one hand on the laptop (doing real time EMR input), and the other hand on the doorknob (next patient, please).

Regardless of whether you work as a clinician with a cash-based practice, concierge, hybrid or membership model, or through a third-party payer and CMS structure, you still have more work and learning to do than your conventional medical-delivery peers. The same holds true for those creating or trying to sustain integrative health service lines within their institutions—those looking for advantages of delivering high touch, low margin, low tech interventions over other service lines focusing on low touch, high tech, and high margin returns to the enterprise.

While there are certainly general best practices for conducting business, there are no best practices specific to your needs, particular interests, challenges, and opportunities. The best model for your unique business or organization must be customized to your population need, demographics, economic priorities, and a host of additional considerations to inform an intelligent business development strategy and process.

While we continue the inexorable march toward integrative health as the global standard of care, let’s also focus on improving the economic wellbeing of the integrative health enterprise.

After all, only through the creation of viable, flourishing businesses and organizations can this dynamic movement become wholly sustainable, therefore providing health creation access to all.

About FON

FON is a leading integrative health and medicine business development and strategy consulting firm. FON specializes in custom solutions for growing patient volume, developing programs, and increasing product sales. Our practical business models are driven by innovative marketing, clear messaging, and customer engagement via branded storytelling.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your business development or personal brand needs.

Image of Glenn Sabin
Author: Glenn Sabin
FON’s founder, Glenn Sabin, is a nationally recognized thought leader with a reputation for successfully positioning integrative health organizations for sustainable growth. Combining media, marketing and business development expertise with an extensive professional and personal integrative health and medicine narrative, Glenn is deeply passionate about advancing the field as the new standard of care—accessible to all.
Read Glenn’s story.


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