April 2 2017 02:11 PM

12 ways to pursue this untapped opportunity

fitness medicine gap

The worldwide obesity epidemic along with the incidence of chronic disease and injury have forced the need for a preventable, medically-integrated, outcome-based healthcare model – one that utilizes medical fitness and nutritional services. However, most medical systems today lack the structure, resources and support staff to help implement financially successful and sustainable fitness programs.

The main reason many medical systems are reluctant to offer fitness programing is because insurance companies do not accept it as evidence-based methodology with appropriate governance to treat chronic disease with the utilization of personal trainers. A common concern of physicians is, “I don’t know who is qualified to serve patients with chronic injury or disease.” The medical groups are just too busy to find qualified personal trainers in their area. This creates a great opportunity for the ambitious personal trainer who is good at identifying and introducing themselves as a leader in this niche.

Some progressive groups that recognize the need and see the business opportunity have begun employing personal trainers who are responsible for implementing programs to be part of a cash-based/insurance hybrid model. Many groups that lack the resources and know-how are looking to qualified professionals that are willing, able and ready to fill the gap between fitness and medicine. Many practices will still be hesitant to add expenses and liability; therefore, this is an opportunity for a trainer to share space with a revenue share or pay rent inside the practice as an independent contractor.

The action-ready and persistent personal trainer with the proper credentials and certifications can implement the following ideas to grow in the fast-expanding field of medical fitness:

1. Create your “Medical Fitness Curriculum Vitae Kit” (medical resume) with introduction letter, complete bio, certifications, education, referral pad, restrictions document and who you are able to best benefit. This should be sent to every physician in your area and/or hand-delivered and asked to be placed in each mail box. Physicians are accustomed to receiving letters and direct mail pieces requesting meetings, including providing basic information when new providers are introduced to an area.
2. Learn to best leverage your biggest training fans and make friends with local medical professionals. According to the Physical Therapy Research Report (PT Journal. January 2011: 91.1 p.25), the interpersonal relational skills of the therapist are the key factors for patient satisfaction. The research showed the greatest indicator of a positive satisfaction score was derived from the view of the provider-patient relationships. Continued utilization and referrals are a greater product of how the patient personally views the service provider. Positive relationships with patients and local physicians will provide a solid foundation for referrals. Find commonalities and make a point to add value and recruit their support in helping you fulfill your mission of serving this niche. Make a point to stay in front of physicians to be reminded of your service. Medical professionals will refer to people they like and trust.

3. Ask for individual lunch meetings, approach medical groups and provide a free lunch-and-learn education session for all staff. To increase your odds of obtaining referrals, offer physicians a free month training program and a discount for staff. Give away something of value in terms of a meal plan or e-book for all in attendance. Create a well-structured PowerPoint that has pertinent information about the need for medical fitness; who you are, who you best serve, services you provide, patient case studies of those you have helped, the benefits the practice or provider will see while collaborating to optimize patient health and improve practice outcome-based measures.

4. Give all your perspective clients that have any health concerns on their PARQ a medical clearance form to review with their physician prior to participating in any program. When they go to their appointment or call in be sure to give a CV and supportive literature on the process of working with you. This way the physician will know who you are both before they begin and after the patient comes back with positive outcomes.

5. Ask the clients you have helped to bring your CV kit to their yearly physical or medical appointments if you have helped with any transformation.

6. Run Facebook ads to local physicians regarding your ability and program offers. Produce Facebook Live videos to your local area and target clients in the niche you are serving.

7. Get involved with The Medical Fitness Network and post your bio for clients who are seeking qualified personal trainers in your area.
8. Participate in the Medical Fitness Associations medical fitness week and use all promotional tools. During this week, send your offer and program to all local news and radio outlets to garner free publicity. While promoting the event, offer free weekly content as a local expert.

9. Participate in your community’s local health events as a tradeshow vendor or as part of a health fair and offer a free medical fitness test-drive.

  • Free health assessment (consultation)
  • Functional Movement Screening
  • Customized fitness session based on findings from first appointment

10. Ask your clients to do video testimonials that you can share on social media and ask specific questions regarding their comfort in working with you because of your credentials and highlight safe and progressive programming.

11. If you own a studio, consider reviewing your state laws to determine what you can do with medically-integrated diagnostic tools and tests that will differentiate you.

  • Metabolic testing
  • Finger prick instant-read biometrics
  • Bio-impedance analysis
  • Heart rate variability
  • Vo2 max testing
  • Digital pulse analysis
  • Food sensitivity testing

12. Provide referral partners with a letter of medical necessity form to work with a personal trainer that allows clients to use health savings or flex dollars towards training services.

Consumers are seeking preventative models of healthcare and investing in themselves. With deductibles on the rise, people are contributing towards health saving accounts and are willing to invest in medically-integrated training programs. Prospective clients will seek an environment that provides safety, security, compassion and comfort that eases the fears of those who suffer from chronic disease or pain. This creates a unique selling position for any trainer staking their claim and those able to prove successful outcomes and collaboration with the medical community.

The healthcare crisis is here to stay until the medical industry finds a way to fully integrate preventative and lifestyle medicine into healthcare. Now is the perfect time for those looking to define their authority in this niche. The need and opportunity is immense as this is a relatively new and untapped market. Our current healthcare crisis has created a perfect storm for the fitness professional who is dedicated to making this strategy work. A few physician referral partners can create a steady influx of patients that can support a successful training business.

J.R. Burgess is the CEO of Rejuv Medical & MedFit. Seven years ago he partnered with Dr. Joel Baumgartner, MD, in the fight against chronic disease and pain. Together they developed a very successful non-surgical orthopedics practice that utilizes medical fitness as medicine. With their success they formed MedFit and to date have helped 33 various clinics add medical fitness in efforts of fulfilling their mission to redefine healthcare.

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