Collaborating with a conventional PCP

Annette Mueller, MS, FNP, IFMCP

Leading with a functional medicine approach

Functional medicine is evidence-based medicine grounded in existing and emerging research and systems biology medicine. Many conventional providers do not "believe" in functional medicine as they simply have not been trained in this model of care and conventional medical training does not teach providers to approach a patient holistically from this viewpoint.

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In my experience as a functional medicine family nurse practitioner for more than 10 years, the best way to introduce the conversation of functional medicine with your primary care provider (PCP) or specialist is to be honest and state that you are hoping to address your specific condition through functional medicine. If your provider is experienced in functional medicine, they may offer some suggestions or preliminary laboratory orders. If they are not trained in this approach, ask for a referral to a certified functional medicine practitioner.

Locating a certified functional medicine practitioner

In addition to through a referral, you can find a practitioner in your area through the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) Find a Practitioner Tool.

IFM offers a rigorous certification program for healthcare providers and this database is listed by certified practitioners (IFMCP) and practitioners who have taken the preliminary course Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP).

We always recommend consultation with a certified practitioner as the training requirements and testing for this are much more comprehensive and require more clinical hours and experience. However, based on your location, a practitioner who has attended AFMCP may be your best choice. Additionally, you may be able to have a remote consult with many certified functional practitioners. Check with the individual provider or their website to see if this is an option. Typically, if the patient is not seen in person, the provider cannot legally diagnose or prescribe medications so they may require an initial in-person consultation.

Keeping the lines of communication open

After finding a provider to work with, it is best to keep the lines of communication open with your PCP. You can request that your functional medicine provider forward office visit notes and labs to your primary care provider. In my notes, I am very detailed with my intake, assessment and plan, and often cite articles or justification for why I am considering a specific intervention. I find the more information I can share with the primary care provider, the more likely they will be to delve into the research themselves or consider taking the AFMCP class to learn more about functional medicine!

As the patient, you can continue to keep your primary care provider informed of your progress and encourage collaboration between your providers. Communication is key!

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