We recently sat down with Drs. Chad Woolner & Andrew Wells to discuss their new podcast and program Simplified Functional Medicine. These resources provide Chiropractors and other healthcare professionals a simple, streamlined, turn-key system for quickly implementing a profitable functional medicine program into their practices. Listen now to see how implementing this program in your office can help your patients and bring more profit to your practice. Listen now using the player below, or your favorite podcasting app.
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We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Andrew Wells and Dr. Chad Woolner about Functional Medicine. They shared with us their new podcast, The Simplified Functional Medicine podcast, and a new program they developed with their friend Dr. Jason Green.
What is Functional Medicine?
“You know, there's a lot of definitions of functional medicine. And the way we approach it is by using lifestyle, nutrition, and supplements to help reverse illnesses. We sort of define it as when we first started off with functional medicine. We had a lot of these organic conditions, people who had fatigue digestive issues, people who weren't sleeping well at night, or who had anxiety. Not to say that getting adjusted can’t help with those particular issues, but we also realize that there is a need to be able to help these patients because if we didn't have solutions then they were going to their medical doctors or to other practitioners and were just getting medicated and treating symptoms. So we wanted a way to incorporate this concept of having a holistic practice, with these types of patients in these types of conditions.
One of the challenges that Dr. Woolner and I found is that [functional medicine] almost sort of butts up against the allopathic model or being the medical doctor, “Okay, you have this symptom, here's a pill for that” or, “You have this symptom, here's a supplement for that”. And it almost, sort of bridges the gap between Western and Eastern medicine, but it's sort of confusing to patients and doctors. I think sometimes that when doctors think about functional medicine, even the name functional medicine has a medicine component to it, it can be off putting to doctors. We found that there's a stigma out there. That's what functional medicine is. And what we're trying to teach doctors is that there's lots of different iterations of functional medicine.” -Dr. Wells.
There's so many things that we can affect as a chiropractor, but having additional support for what we do outside of patient encounters in the office, there's a real need for that. As chiropractors, we are always looking for more tools in our toolbelts to be able to give our patients the best help that they can get.
Functional Medicine can be overwhelming and confusing for both the patients and the doctors, and so Dr. Wells and Dr. Woolner created The Simplified Functional Medicine podcast to help explain and make [functional medicine] easier to understand.
How did you come to create the “The Simplified Functional Medicine Podcast”?
“Before Dr. Woolner and I met, we actually both dove into the world of functional medicine. Dr. Woolner to help some of the health issues that his wife was suffering with. And for me, we had a really busy practice and we thought, “Okay, what's the next logical thing for us to add value to our practice and for our patients?” Must be functional medicine. I had heard all these great things about it and when we implemented it we didn't realize how complicated or how complex the systems were. Not only the clinical protocols, but the business protocols. I realized that I was in over my head and I made the horrible mistake of trying to dump it on my staff. They got really angry at me because they were like “We don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t want to run this, it’s too complicated”. We sunk a lot of money and effort into it, and we just gave up on it because it was just way too complex.
So one day, Dr. Woolner called me and he's like, “Hey, Andrew, I got this great idea. I want to see if we can simplify the functional medicine process. I have an idea about functional medicine.” He walked me through really simply what this approach was of simplifying the functional medicine process. And after about an hour the light bulb went off. He actually simplified functional medicine, very quickly I could wrap my head around the clinical protocols and where it was coming from. Then I realized if we had used this simpler approach in our practice, from a business administration standpoint, this would have been infinitely easier than what we had tried before. And so [Dr. Woolner] really caught my attention. In an hour I went from, “No, I don't want to talk about this” to, “Oh, my gosh, you've solved a critical problem that chiropractors have with functional medicine.” -Dr. Wells.
Does Functional Medicine take up a lot of time? How do you use Functional Medicine?
“You know, when we look at all these issues where it's like, “Okay, it takes a lot of time. There's a lot of lab tests that need to be ordered, a lot of supplements that need to be prescribed, and there's a lot of complexity to this.” Those are all symptoms of a root problem with most of these conventional approaches to functional medicine. And what we talk about is the real root of the issue, is looking through two different lenses.
Conventional Medicine is that kind of lens that they look through, the lens of what's possible. And so when you look at a patient through the lens of what's possible and a patient comes in who's, let's say, talking about digestive issues, where do you start?
So with that lens of what's possible, you're going to order labs. You're ordering the stool test, you're ordering a blood test, you're ordering a saliva test, or you're ordering a genetic test. I mean, literally, you could go down the list and check off just about every diagnostic test under the sun and you'd be completely justified if you're looking through the lens of what's possible, because anything's possible, right?
So for us, we said that's not going to represent the majority of the patients that we're talking about. And this is I think one of the biggest misnomers about simplified functional medicine, is this assumption that what we're talking about is that we're going to teach you in an hour how to become the functional medicine guru. And that's not it at all. What we're simply saying is the majority, you can call it 8020 if you want that classic 8020 rule, of patients who are struggling with: fatigue, digestive issues, hormone related issues, difficulty losing weight, depression, and/or anxiety or some similar variant of those kind of core issues, are going to be dealing with these issues from a standpoint of what we would consider relatively uncomplicated. Again, emphasis on that term relative, because it is a little bit relative but based on what we train and what we teach our docs, they are relatively uncomplicated, right? And so instead of looking through the lens of what's possible, we always talk about looking through the lens of what's probable.
When we start with the lens of what's probable, what that means is we can narrow down things substantially and in most instances get really great results with far less. We don't have to order dozens. We can hone in on some of the most common root causes and issues of a lot of these problems that people are dealing with and still get really great results. And on the off chance, because it does happen sometimes, that we don't get great results then we know, “okay, now we can refer them to the guru” and they can dive in deeper. But at least this is a good starting point. It's comprehensive enough to where it gets really powerful results for these patients.
And so what that does, is it dramatically reduces down the breath of what we have to cover. So that equals far less time with the patient and far less effort and energy in terms of dig, dig, dig, dig, dig. That allows us to be far more efficient with our approach. So typically with our process we've found that when we know down to what's probable, the messaging is going to be fairly similar. So we developed a series of automated education and enrollment videos. We have day one, day two, and day 90.
Basically what happens is a patient comes through and they say, “Hey, Dr. Dan, I'm struggling with fatigue” or “digestive issues” or whatever other similar types of issues.
“Okay, well, we have a program that might be able to help you. We have a video that really explains and outlines exactly what's going on, and how we utilize some testing to find out if it looks like we're going to be able to help you. If it looks like you're going to be a good fit for this program.”
And so you get them in front of the day one video, that video’s 15 minutes long. There's about a 5 to 10 minute kind of introduction that takes place with you and/or your case manager. You get the patient to sit down, they watch the video and at the end of the video they're either in or out on some testing. The testing is not 1000s of dollars, and it's not 1000s of different tests. It's a simple at home saliva test that we have them do.
They come back approximately two weeks later, they get their lab results and then they have what we call a day two video. We welcome them back, we do a handoff to the case manager. We basically reassure the patient, “Hey, we've looked over your results. It looks like you're going to be a good candidate. Good news is it looks like we can help you. Sally here is the case manager. As soon as this video is done, we're gonna have you watch a brief video that will go through what the test covers, and all that fun stuff. Sally is going to answer any questions from there and she'll show you how we can go about helping you. Just know that if you have any questions for me directly, I'm happy to answer those for you, just know that I'm available. And I'm aware of what's going on.” So they know the doctors there but then you essentially have handed off a lot of the logistical stuff to a team member.
At the end of the day two video the case manager shows the protocol, the tools and the supplements that are included in their specific program. They enroll the patient in the program. Then [the patient] goes through with approximately weekly check-ins, unless they're still on some sort of a chiropractic program which we typically incorporate into it.
Usually, it's a 90 day protocol. At the 90 day protocol there's another video that they watch that basically talks about retesting, goes over their lab tests with them again and gives them some options in terms of moving forward.
In a nutshell that is in essence what the program is, how it works and how we've kind of cut out a lot of the unnecessary time, effort and energy in terms of that.” -Dr.Woolner.
With COVID and with patients doing remote health care, is this something that can be done remotely?
“Well, we actually have about a third of our Doc's and clients running what we call hybrid offices. So they have a brick and mortar practice but they're moving into either a virtual practice or wanting to do more of that to kind of supplement what they're doing in their brick and mortar practice. We have about 10 or 15% of our doctors who are now using this system as their sole practice, using the system as a virtual practice.” -Dr. Wells.
What type of training does the Case Manager receive? Do they go through the same training process as well so that they can understand the ins and outs of managing these types of cases?
“In terms of training a case manager, what I did in my own practice is I developed all the protocol videos and training. Then I said to my own case manager Jill, “I'm going to cover lunch for you on Tuesday, I need you to block yourself out. And the rest of the team is going to cover for you not being there. What I'm gonna have you go through our members area from top to bottom, and that's how you're going to get trained.” It was roughly about a six to eight hour day. It was a lot. She put in a lot of time and she was pretty tired by the end of the day, but that was it. She was trained. She got it, she retained the information. I asked her a couple of questions, and then we literally just put her to work the next day. It was within that first week or two that she was up and running and enrolling patients in the program, it was the coolest thing to see.
So to answer your question in terms of the training that the case managers go through: number one, it's all there for them to go through just like the doc and number two, we provide weekly ongoing training as well. We call them CSD (Case study and design) calls. So Doc's and or their case managers can get on live with us, they can present cases to us and they say, “Hey we've got this patient, here's their lab test, here's their presentation. What do you think is the best approach?” Then we kind of reason together as a group. “What do you guys think?” And then we outline some strategies for them.”-Dr. Woolner.
Do you have any specific patient testimonials that you would like to share?
“We had a patient of mine, she's been a longtime patient who had for years been struggling with fatigue and digestive issues. She enrolled in the program, it's been about two and a half months, and I just saw her yesterday. She said, “My digestion is so much better, my energy is so much better.” It was the coolest thing to hear from her.
I would venture a guess to say, you know, 80 to 90% of the patients that enroll in the program get really good results. Meaning their primary complaints substantially improve, and I mean to the degree that they're minimally if not completely, entirely no longer interfering with their life.” -Dr. Woolner.
“What our program really does is it emphasizes on a far more comprehensive strategy, not just supplementation but a lot of lifestyle components that we include there as well in terms of really showing them a pragmatic approach to getting up and getting moving. A pragmatic approach to changing their dietary habits, changing their daily routines in such a way and making it fun. It's a program that we've designed and developed some system strategies that are unique, fun and engaging. And that's I think, where the magic happens in terms of why this program gets such good results. It's because patients are doing more than just popping pills” -Dr. Woolner
Tell us a little bit about the podcast? How long has it been around? And what kind of topics are you discussing there?
“We launched the podcast like two months ago, I think we're where we've recorded 14 episodes so far. Our podcast is just a way to connect with doctors to really teach them about our approach to functional medicine, some strategies that have worked for us, and also that it's an approachable thing for a lot of doctors who don't want to be functional medicine gurus. So we really unpack a lot of strategies and thought processes and tactics in the podcast. We give you all of our thoughts and tips and processes in the podcast. So if you're curious we would highly encourage you to check out the simplified functional medicine podcast.” -Dr. Wells
Where else can you be found?
“We also have a free training, so if you want to learn about the implementation steps we have a training you can find on our website: https://www.simplifiedfunctionalmedicine.com/
Basically what we do is set the stage to talk about some of the fundamental problems with conventional medicine and what we discovered in terms of how we stumbled onto some of the solutions to that. Then we really outline the platform or the pillars that we use to really help restore our patient's health and get better results and we do it in a way that is profitable for the practitioner.” -Dr. Wells.
It is so important to implement things that work and are tried and tested, and make sure that you can enjoy life outside of practice as well. We appreciate [Dr. Wells and Dr. Woolner] for putting the time in to figure that system out because we think it is necessary. We think that adding that additional support to patients that aren't necessarily getting what they need from other providers and supporting them through that.