Over the past decade, there has been a move towards functional health. More people are searching for functional medicine doctors and professionals to help them overcome health issues that have been difficult to resolve. But how much does it cost to work with a functional medicine professional? We are going to answer this question and tell you what you need to know when looking for a functional health professional to work with.
What is functional health?
When you go to see a conventional doctor, that doctor will look at the symptoms you have. The collection of symptoms you have may correspond to a specific disease or condition. Often, they run lab tests that can assist in validating a diagnosis. The doctor then prescribes medications, surgery, or other treatment options to address the symptoms. Conventional medicine manages a disease once it has occurred. But there is little in the conventional medical system that works on prevention.
A functional approach to health is different. Functional health practitioners look deeper. They act as detectives looking for underlying, and often more subtle causes of symptoms. These practitioners are looking for why different systems of the body are malfunctioning so that they can support the body’s ability to heal. They look for root causes. This allows functional health practitioners to help clients prevent severe chronic illness by addressing symptoms before the disease occurs.
What types of functional health professionals are there?
There are two basic types of functional health professionals that currently work with clients. Functional medical doctors and functional health practitioners.
Functional medical doctors
There are three types of doctors that you can find working as functional medical doctors. Medical doctors (MD), Osteopathic doctors (DO), and Naturopathic doctors (ND). All three types of doctors are licensed, medical doctors.
But they have different levels of training. Both MDs and DOs go through four-year medical school training followed by a year of residency. If they decide to specialize, they will continue with several more years of training in their specialty. Osteopathic medical schools differ from conventional medical schools because they have a greater focus on holistic and alternative therapies along with conventional allopathic therapies. Osteopathic schools also emphasize prevention more than traditional medical school training does.
Naturopathic doctors attend four-year graduate-level accredited naturopathic medical schools. These medical schools have a strong emphasis on disease prevention. All three types of medical doctors must take additional training in functional medicine and must take board exams and be licensed. NDs do not typically complete a residency program. But they also do not normally practice in a hospital setting and opt for private practice or working in wellness centers instead.
Some functional MDs and DOs use a combination of holistic treatment along with conventional treatment such as medication. Lab testing is common for three types of doctors. And all three types of doctors can diagnose and treat disease.
Functional health practitioners
Functional health practitioners are not medical doctors. They legally cannot diagnose and treat a disease like a doctor can. But they can help to facilitate important lifestyle changes that can support the body’s natural ability to restore proper function. Many use functional lab testing to look deeper at the body function to check for those subtle patterns that something is wrong.
When it comes to functional health practitioners there are a few different types. Many chiropractors are functional health practitioners as well. Chiropractors may have the title “doctor of chiropractic”, but they are not medical doctors. They are not licensed to diagnose or treat disease. But many have been trained to understand functional health and have a functional approach to working with clients.
Functional health coaches act as a support system and mentor for their clients. They help clients create positive strategies to make the necessary lifestyle changes that can help support their bodies. While they cannot prescribe specific diets, they can help clients incorporate healthier foods. They also act as a source of accountability for clients. They help their clients set health goals and work together to achieve them.
It is not uncommon to find practitioners who specialize in certain areas. So, it is important to understand what a practitioner’s focus is. There are practitioners who specialize in digestive health, hormone health, women’s health issues, Lyme disease, as well as those who have a general health focus. It is important when researching a practitioner to understand what their area of focus is so you know if they are the correct fit for your health needs.
Using lab testing
A growing number of functional practitioners are being trained to use lab testing with clients. But the parameters they use are very different than the parameters used by doctors to diagnose disease. They look for more subtle patterns that may indicate that a system of the body isn’t functioning the way it should.
Most conventional doctors disregard the subtle patterns. They look for patterns that fall within the lab test’s reference ranges. These tests are used to confirm the disease. But these subtle patterns, that typically fall outside of the conventional reference ranges, can tell a story.
What does it cost to work with a functional medicine professional?
When looking for a functional practitioner, you will discover that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to what they offer and how they charge for their services. Practitioners typically assess fees in one of two ways:
- Pay per appointment
- Package plans
Most practitioners offer an initial consultation appointment which tends to be longer than follow-up appointments. We’ve done some research and found that initial consultations started at $70 for a one-hour consultation and went up to just under $1000 for a one-hour consultation.
It is more challenging to find functional practitioners who offer individual appointments. Most offer packages or subscription services instead. But we did find a few practitioners that did offer them. For We found appointment prices started at $100 for a 30-minute appointment and went up to just under $1000 for a one-hour appointment. All these practitioners we found that offered individual appointments did have an initial consultation that was priced higher. This type of appointment was typically offered by functional medical doctors and osteopathic doctors.
Most functional medicine practitioners prefer to bundle their services in packages. In packages, practitioners combine an initial consultation, a set number of follow-up appointments or coaching, the lifestyle plan or protocol created for the client or patient, and email or phone support. Some practitioners opt to offer lab testing as a part of their package. Others keep testing as a separate cost.
The benefit of investing in a package is that you understand the largest costs upfront. There won’t be expensive surprises down the road. It is common to find 90-day or 6-month packages. Some practitioners will also offer 12-month packages, but that is less common.
Packages start at around $900 for a three-month package. Packages at this end typically did not include lab testing, although a few did include recommendations for lab tests based on information provided in the initial consultation. Programs at that price level that do include functional lab testing typically only provide 1 test.
On the higher end were programs that ranged in price from $5500-$7000. These programs tend to be offered by practitioners who are well-known, highly skilled, well-educated, and have a proven track record of success with clients. These practitioners tend to be in high demand. Packages from these practitioners tend to include more extensive lab testing, which definitely impacts the price point.
Lab testing can be costly, but necessary for uncovering areas within the body where subtle signs of dysfunction are occurring so that you can get to the root of what is causing issues. These practitioners understand the need for greater exploration so that they can get results for their clients and patients.
Lab testing costs
The bulk of the cost from working with a functional medicine practitioner will most likely come from lab testing. Particularly if the practitioner wants to do a thorough health assessment.
Labs commonly used by functional medicine practitioners often include:
- Mucosal barrier test
- Food sensitivity test
- GI pathogen test
- Metabolic profile test
- Hormone test
- Heavy metal testing
Licensed functional doctors may also want to include a full blood chemistry test as well.
Individual lab test prices start at around $75 and go up to almost $600. The average test price is around $300.
Is working with a functional medicine practitioner covered by insurance?
Unfortunately, most of the time the answer is no. Some licensed functional doctors do work with insurance carriers, but this is not common. Be aware that if a licensed functional doctor does offer to file insurance you will be considered out of network. This will still mean out-of-pocket costs for you. Other practitioners are now working with flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA). Check with a practitioner to see if they offer this option.
Other costs you should be aware of?
There may be additional costs associated with working with a functional medicine professional. Most will recommend a specific protocol including several supplements that your body will need as it begins to rebuild health. Many practitioners offer supplement discounts but expect that you will have to purchase some supplements.
If you are working with a practitioner for an extended program, they may wish to have you take specific lab tests again to be sure that the protocols they created for you are working and that progress is being made. You may not need to retake every test that you did initially, but it is not uncommon for retesting to be requested.
Switching to a healthier way of eating also means an increase in what you spend at the grocery store. Switching to all organic foods or eliminating things like gluten from your diet and eating gluten-free can be more costly. But that may be recommended by your practitioner according to your lab results. A 2013 study has shown that on average it costs about $1.50 a day, per person to eat healthier foods. So you can expect to pay $45 a month more for healthier food options.
What if you are working with a practitioner on a three-month program and time runs out…but you are making good progress and aren’t ready to go it alone quite yet. You may want to consider purchasing another three-month package, some additional coaching, email, or phone support. Consider that when selecting a program.
How much should I budget for working with a functional medicine professional?
When looking at the cost to work with a functional medicine professional, it is important to make a budget.
But planning how much to budget will depend on what level of help you’re looking for. If you are looking for the bare minimum, you should at least budget $4000-$5000. This can cover basic program costs, lab testing, supplements, and possibly some retesting. Ideally, you should budget $5000-$6000 so that you can easily cover everything you need.
Although this may seem like a lot of money to many it really isn’t. Many people we work with at FDNthrive have spent thousands of dollars going to doctors that haven’t been able to give them answers. Or they’ve wasted money trying the latest supplements without understanding what their body really needs.
The most important thing that you can do is to do your research on different practitioners you may be considering working with. Know what your budget it and don’t be afraid to ask your practitioner questions about possible additional expenses so that you understand upfront what the cost may be to you. Working with a functional health professional is a great opportunity to take your health back!
If you are interested in learning more about working with us at FDNthrive, contact us today.