Tom Blue made his mark in the healthcare industry when he set up Virginia’s first concierge medical practice in 2002. Since that time, he has dedicated himself to researching and synthesizing new approaches around the commercialization of root cause medicine and precision health, either directly through the delivery of services or through the creation of tools and technology that essentially make the services more efficient to deliver.
Mr. Blue is the Strategic Advisor for the Institute of Functional Medicine and serves on the board of the American Nutrition Association. He is a serial healthcare entrepreneur and active advisor to a number of firms in the areas of personalized nutrition and digital health.
Root Cause Medicine Amid Pandemic
“When COVID-19 hit, two of my colleagues and I created what we thought of as a Rapid Response Initiative for COVID to assist independent medical practices. We set out to assemble the tools, approaches, protocols, and workflows for the reinvention of a medical practice to thrive in COVID Era,” said Mr. Blue in an interview with Top Doctor Magazine. As an expert specializing in functional medicine in the U.S, Mr. Blue focused on assisting practices to weather the impact of COVID-19, which put healthcare professionals under immense pressure.
Functional Medicine And The Pandemic: How Disease Reversal Is Better Than Disease Management
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused great damage within our healthcare system, Mr. Blue believes that it has elevated the significance of addressing the root causes of chronic disease rather than simply managing the symptoms. “We have seen very clearly through the lens of COVID that there is a big difference between managing chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and hypertension – and reversing those conditions,” he said. “Disease reversal requires that the causes be addressed.”
Blue speculates that to the extent there are silver linings to be found from the pandemic, the heightened prioritization of real health across the population would be near the top of the list.
Functional Medicine And The Future Of Public Health
There is a groundswell of interest in functional medicine on the parts of consumers, physicians, and employers. “Culturally, we are evolving into a new generation of people who are not willing to accept life-long dependence on the healthcare system to manage a burden of disease that could actually be reversed given the proper guidance and behavior change. Who wouldn’t prefer to treat the cause of a disease than merely masking its effects?” says Blue. “But economically, the biggest winner is the payer. Consider the long-term difference in cost between disease management and disease reversal.”
“The story of health, and the locus of control, has flipped for the first time in human history. Since the first person became aware of health and disease, humans have held the belief that what happens to our health is a matter of fortune or fate. In 2001, the story became more high-tech with the sequencing of the human genome, but the story at the time was still one of genetic predestination. Today, we realize that only about 20% of our health is dictated by genetics, and the other 80% is determined by the expression of our genetics – which is dictated by lifestyle – sleep, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, environmental exposure. These are the choices we make. So if 80% of our health is determined by our behaviors, we are left to conclude that health is fundamentally a skill.” Blue concluded.
Telemedicine And Functional Medicine
Functional medicine lends itself well to virtualization because it is a very consultative method of managing health. It relies heavily on data interpretation – unpacking and interpreting the patient story, and then assisting the patient to make the necessary changes to resolve the causes of their health issues.
While doctors are embracing functional medicine in growing numbers every year, consumer demand for this type of care is greater than the supply in most markets. The ability to work remotely with a functional medicine provider will dramatically increase access to this type of care and will drive greater efficiencies for practices now that telehealth visits are reimbursed equally to office visits.
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Brianna Connors & Derek Archer Co-Editors