The Community Cure & Finding a Functional Medicine Doctor

How to get more people healthy at a lower cost with James Maskell.

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode. Today I speak with James Maskell about his book, “The Community Cure” and how community based treatment and history taking in functional medicine can reduce cost while actually improving efficacy. One interesting note he made is that when people are going through how to eat healthier for gut health, when working together they actually problem solve barriers to implementation as they are both experiencing the same dietary changes. We discuss how this community model can not only decrease costs but improve effectiveness and solve for loneliness, which is another problem that’s fairly endemic.

He also discusses his findfunctional.com website offering, which I think is actually a fantastic idea. You input data and the system directs you to the level of care that you need. Now this is something I discussed in Healthy Gut, Healthy You and something I discussed in our post from a few years ago, but continues to be one of the most viewed posts on our website, “How to find a good functional medicine doctor.” I lay out that you don’t necessarily need to go to a doctor, which is evidenced by the fact that many people have improved their gut health just by going through the protocol in Healthy Gut, Healthy You. So the screening here helps direct one to the level of care requisite with their needs: health coach, nutritionist, doctor, and this process also will reduce cost and improve efficiency. Very interesting conversation today with James. We also touched on a few ways in which communities can be brought digital in light of the current situation with COVID associated shelter in place orders. Great episode today, the themes are community efficiency and reduction of costs in functional medicine. Check it out.

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In This Episode

Episode Intro … 00:00:40
What is the Community Cure? … 00:02:54
Group Visit Innovation … 00:06:42
Cleveland Clinic Example … 00:13:48
Loneliness & Groups … 00:15:51
Groups Speed Up Slow Parts of Functional Medicine … 00:18:16
Functional Intake Doesn’t Need to Be Long … 00:20:52
Virtual Group Visits & Telehealth … 00:22:50
Finding the Right Functional Medicine Provider … 00:27:27
Episode Wrap Up … 00:35:16

How do you reduce the cost of the functional medicine model and improve health care outcomes? It turns out the answer may be group visits, patient community, and telehealth, according to James Maskell, founder of the The Functional Forum and The Evolution of Medicine, and author of The Community Cure: Transforming Health Outcomes Together. Maskell is working to flatten the curve of health care costs, and to make the functional medicine model the standard of care for everyone.

Group Visits Improve Health Care Outcomes

Maskell says that functional medicine, which is a patient-centered, integrative medicine-based approach focused on addressing the root cause of disease, is the health care model that can deliver a widespread reduction in complex chronic disease. But he says applying functional medicine is currently too expensive for most patients to afford, and conventional medicine insurance companies can’t figure out how to pay for it. It’s also difficult for many people to change the lifestyle factors, like diet or exercise, that make the difference in their health outcomes.

The solution: Group visits and peer-to-peer communities of people with the same conditions, learning how to manage their health together.

“For people to really get on board with behavior change, one of the key missing pieces in functional medicine has been that they may not know someone just like them who has reversed their chronic illness…that peer to peer support is really what facilitates scalable behavioral change,” he said.


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Group Visits Fight Loneliness, the Biggest Driver of All-Cause Mortality

Getting people together in groups also addresses another important piece of the puzzle: Loneliness.   According to Maskell, loneliness is the biggest driver of all-cause mortality: More than smoking, nutrition, exercise, and alcohol. He says, “If we’re really all about the root cause [of disease] in functional medicine there’s this huge root cause that no one is talking about. But if you start to engage patients to help each other, now you have the framework for an exponential transformation, which is really what we need to overcome this burden of chronic disease.”

Loneliness is a significant barrier to change and contributor to poor outcomes for people with chronic health conditions. Group visits help. Functional medicine physicians who use group visits as part of their integrated medicine practice started to see that the participants help solve each other’s problems.

Community Care and Telemedicine

The COVID-19 outbreak has made getting the most out of telemedicine more important than ever. Maskell says that online group visits provide the same results as in-person care.   Even better for management of complex chronic disease, functional medicine physicians are integrating remote patient monitoring devices into their medical care for chronic illness patients, which can help them better manage their conditions. Maskell says, “The amount of time that people engage in their own health in the 167 hours a week that they’re not in [their doctor’s] office is the largest determinant of the outcome.” Engaging with monitoring and tracking while outside the office helps keep patients engaged in their care.

Community Care Reduces Functional Medicine Costs

One of the biggest criticisms of functional medicine is the excessive cost of specialty labs, and the lengthy medical history intake process. Group visits help solve both of these problems. Maskell says, “What we’ve seen time and again is that if people start to execute on healthy behaviors consistently, it has a dramatic effect on all of their labs.” This means less labs need to be used up front.

Engaging patients in the medical history intake process and changing lifestyle factors as a group also helps reduce these functional medicine costs. Doctors provide group education, which saves time, helps other patients learn from each other, and brings the cost of care down for each individual patient. It also allows insurers to pay for the visits. Community care empowers patients and practitioners to improve health at an affordable cost.

How to Find the Right Functional Medicine Practitioner

Because access to functional medicine is currently limited, he says doctors should be reserved for the most complex cases. Maskell developed FindFunctional.com, a website to help people find the appropriate health service for their situation. FindFunctional.com helps you determine what level of care, such as health coach, nutritionist, or doctor, is most appropriate for you.

You can give FindFunctional.com a try for $49 instead of the regular $99 by using the code RUSCIO at checkout.

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Discussion

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