Functional medicine: A new model of care?

If successful, Cleveland Clinic's new functional medicine department could put the hospital out of business. But the innovative approach to teach patients how to avoid the hospital altogether is just the program that the world-renowned, non-profit academic medical center wants to pursue, according to the Desert News National.

The Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic opened in late September less than two years after CEO Toby Cosgrove first reached out to Mark Hyman, M.D., to create a functional medicine clinic at the academic medical center. Hyman, chairman of The Institute for Functional Medicine, which has offices in Washington state and New Mexico, and founder of The UltraWellness Center in Massachusetts, told Cosgrove if he was hired, he'd do his best to put the medical center "out of business," the Desert News reported.

The Cleveland Clinic is the first academic medical center in the country to embrace functional medicine, which focuses on the underlying causes of illness, instead of symptom management.

Patients who make appointments at the center complete an in-depth questionnaire that the doctor will review prior to the initial visit. During that visit, the patient will spend 60 to 90 minutes with the doctor and then another 45 minutes with a nutritionist. The team then works with the patient to create a care plan that includes dietary advice.

Hyman told the Desert News that the holistic program involves more time for healthcare professionals as well as patients. But the team approach has longer-lasting effects, he said. "We want to create [better] function in a body by restoring balance," he told the publication.

The medical team at the center coordinates the care of patients who in the past may have had many doctors to treat them for various conditions. The team creates a plan to help balance the body so symptoms disappear and eliminates the need for medication. A patient's care plan may involve a combination of healthy foods, exercise, sleep and removing junk food, alcohol or tobacco that may throw a body out of balance.

Hyman said other doctors within the Cleveland Clinic are asking to learn more about functional medicine and work with his staff. And patients across the country and Canada are calling to schedule appointments, according to the Desert News.

"All eyes will be on this clinic," Jeffrey Bland, M.D., who is considered the father of functional medicine, told the publication. "It will send a message to other regions of the country and the world."

To learn more:
- here's the Desert News article
- read the Cleveland Clinic's announcement