3 Pillars of Successful Patient Outcomes


This blog post was originally published in Becker’s Hospital Review on May 10, 2018

Successful patient outcomes are the driver of functional medicine  practice success. There are three key areas practitioners must master with regard to their patients to ensure positive, life-changing outcomes.

As a functional medicine practitioner, creating successful patient outcomes are the reason you do what you do. Like most of us, you were inspired to do this sometimes difficult work to make a difference in the quality and course of people’s lives. The good news is that successful patient outcomes are also the foundation of business success for your functional medicine practice – a refreshing happenstance that aligns the incentives for both you and your patients.

In our extensive work with Functional Medicine practices and practitioners, we have identified the three most important pillars of successful outcomes for patients.

1st Pillar: Active Patient Engagement

As you are well aware, the Functional Medicine approach by its very nature requires a very different level of engagement between the patient and the practitioner. Functional Medicine is not about a cursory seven minute visit followed by a drug prescription and a follow up in three to four months. Unraveling a lifetime’s worth of issues takes time and in most cases significant behavior change on the part of the patient. The course that they engage in with you as the practitioner and your practice has to be designed to rope them in to the process. The information gathering process that may seem to some as onerous is also necessary for you to be able to do your detective work so that you can effectively identify triggers and mediators and the root cause. Employing technology to help you gather data, gauge patient readiness for change helps save precious clinician time and drives efficiency but also serves to re-orient the patient’s thinking about their problems and issues as something that has taken a lifetime to develop. Active engagement with the patient starts with the act of filling in the questionnaire.

2nd Pillar: Creating a Therapeutic Partnership

The data from the questionnaires can be used to create powerful visuals including the Timeline and the Functional Medicine Matrix. The most successful functional medicine practices use visuals during the consultation to dialogue with the patient, do the detective work and re-tell the story to help the patient appreciate the “Why”. Visual patterns provide a comprehensive picture of a patient’s health over a lifetime.  Graphics that visually display patient results and demonstrate progress are critical. This connection to their health story and knowing that you – as their practitioner – “get-it” then forms the bond and trust that leads to the therapeutic partnership and increases the likelihood that they will take action after the consultation.

3rd Pillar: Measuring Outcomes

Creation of a personalized Functional Medicine prescription that addresses the lifestyle factors forms the basis of the actions that the patient will take on their journey back to health. As you work with them to influence behavior change and their health improves, something interesting often happens. People will sometimes forget how bad they felt when they first came in. Visually demonstrating improvements using graphs of sequential MSQs and PROMIS Global Health scores is a critical step in helping the patient understand how far they have come in their journey. As patients appreciate their improvement, they are naturally excited about your work together and talk about and refer friends and family to you, building a strong referral network.  

Next Steps

If you are looking to engage patients in high-quality, personalized, therapeutic partnerships that lead to superior outcomes and result in a flow or referrals to your practice, consider LivingMatrix. LivingMatrix, the industry-leading patient management system, has collaborated with the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) to make it easy to utilize the powerful IFM questionnaires, Timeline and Functional Medicine Matrix while delivering a unique engagement process and documented outcomes for your patients resulting in high referral rates for your practice.