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Sept. 20 2006 12:00 AM

As the cost of building leases, supplies and equipment are continuing to skyrocket, medical practitioners and professionals are eager to find new revenue opportunities that can begin to soak up these financial losses. The traditional field of health care is fast noticing the revenue growth and the rising demand that the fitness industry is undergoing. Yet, these well-suited vocations seem to remain on opposite sides when addressing their consumers' health needs. Although the medical field has adopted the idea of fitness as an asset to their existing practices, few seem to understand or recognize the integral role of the fitness professional. Many continue to rely on their specialty backgrounds and their conventional support staff, rather than utilize the professionals, like personal trainers, who are trained specifically in the fitness and exercise domain. Crossing this scope-of-practice chasm can teach many essential lessons for practitioners in creating the profit center of your dreams.


The Value of the Personal Trainer

            It is evident to the health care practitioner the kinds of benefits that they can offer to the fitness professional. These types of partnerships lend great credibility and a heightened level of expertise to the services offered by personal trainers. Yet those in the medical field do not realize that these collaborative relationships can, in effect, benefit them as well. Christopher Breuleux, who has a doctorate in corporate health and fitness as well as being a trained exercise physiologist, believes that this connection between the medical and fitness fields can be the new business model for many to follow just as he did in his business, V-Sports Medicine. "I think that a better model for practitioners to follow as well as providing more marketing value would be to create a team that includes doctors with specialties, chiropractors, nutritionists and then physical therapists or personal trainers providing services of massage therapy and personal training. We call this the sports team. Then, everyone who belongs to the team can refer to one another to meet with clients, do assessments and to really provide full-care in the continuum," Breuleux explains.

            This very approach was one that Breuleux implemented in his own facility. He presented his vision of wellness to the Velocity Performance Center   franchise, which currently has 55-60 locations throughout the country. Meeting with the rights holder of this franchise as well as its COO, Breuleux sold them on the many advantages that such an integrated team could bring to the franchise and the many clients that it serves. Today, the V-Sports team actively refers among the team, which is comprised of doctors from primarily family care, sports medicine, podiatry, chiropractic, optometry as well as a dietician professor from Rice University.

            The classic example of introducing the fitness component in many practices has been the rehabilitation and physical therapy center, but now the transition to personal training and the use of the full-time trainer is becoming a popular enhancement of these centers. Breuleux is noticing that these medical facilities are recruiting and hiring personal trainers and fitness professionals, with even more therapy businesses following suit. These employment trends are pointing to a shift in the attitudes of the medical world. "It gets the message that exercise is medicine and the therapeutic value of exercise. Clearly most medical practitioners and those dealing with obesity and weight loss need to have the exercise component. Fitness professionals, with the appropriate education, training and certification, can be a great value in being a part of prescribing exercise. This value can be one that a medical provider can offer his patients or members of his community," Breuleux adds.


Revenue Assets

            The bottom line for many of these practitioners is the amount of money that can be made through these fitness ventures. Often, revenue through their practices is only seen through third-party payments, which is mostly paid at 30. on every dollar, therefore, the potential cash that can be made is an attractive carrot to dangle. The opportunity to generate $50,000 over the year is an idea that is catching many professionals' eyes. Medical businesses should take a closer look at the powerful money-making machine that the fitness industry has been running. Their successes are intricately linked to the synergy that exists between trainers and their consumers. The role of the personal trainer in their clients' lives has transformed from the archaic job description of designing exercise programs to becoming a vital coach that motivates and activates real change in peoples' lives. This intimate connection is one that must be perfected and is certainly a great value to bring into the medical world. Although traditional medical staff can still provide specialty training, incorporating personal trainers can deliver an influential effect on your patients' performances. Looking at supply-and-demand, your employees that have spinal care and range of motion specialties should be concentrating on those kinds of programs, while your personal trainer can be utilized more effectively to encourage real desire in your patient's exercise regimens.

            Breuleux points out these fitness professionals need to advertise their expertise to catch the attention of the medical field. "Fitness professionals need to let [practitioners] know that they can be helpful to them, and what services they can provide to the practice and community, beyond just the practitioners facilities." The reality is that medical practitioners are very pressed for time and are eager to eliminate superfluous energy, while still aspiring to see twice the results. Revenue could possibly be still pumped into their wallets if medical practitioners employ personal trainers who are able to train outside of the practice. Therefore, such a plan would eradicate unneeded time as well as provide savings on overhead expenses of the facility. The only expenditure that the practitioner would need to expend would be the personal trainer's cost. The cold, hard numbers point to the fact that utilizing personal trainers is going to cost less than filling your fitness facility with traditional medical staff and provides a larger, guaranteed ROI. Even if a partnership is struck, sharing profits at 80/20 or 70/30, medical professionals are going to see a higher return, and therefore, actual cash flowing into their business something that all businessmen like to see.

            Americans today are facing serious health risks due to their inabilities to motivate themselves to exercise and diet healthy. The consequences of these lifestyle habits are beginning to seep into the health care landscape. These concerns are becoming the focus of many medical professionals as they try to tackle the pressing issues at hand. As the structure of health care is being revamped, the budding opportunities for profit and scope-of-care are forging a relationship between the industries of fitness and medicine. Understanding each other's goals and missions can be the first step in creating a symbiotic co-existence, which in effect, will provide the consumers that need to be served most comprehensively. Learning to push each other's boundaries down, a united team of health professionals could possibly be the future. By building cooperative relationships, the opportunity to produce profit centers that can earn real revenue, while feeding the growing demand from the public, can be more than just a dream.


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