Seven reasons integrative and functional medicine practices fail—and what you can do
March 31, 2017
by Glenn Sabin, Founder of FON Consulting During a recent call with a prospective client—a solo practitioner orthopedic surgeon looking to develop an integrative medicine center—I was asked why integrative health practices fail. I’d never before been asked this important question pointblank. My mind contemplated the myriad things that can conspire to bring a center to its knees, but in the silent seconds I sensed she might want a catch-all answer and I offered up ‘poor planning and communication’ as the primary culprit. Though it was a general statement it was especially salient because this physician entrepreneur was looking to form a partnership with several community wellness leaders across professional and medical disciplines. While failure to plan, communicate, and engage partners is critical to a venture’s success, I offer seven additional reasons. 1. Insufficient or Inflexible Business PlanNailing a solid mission and vision statement is important and necessary, as are well-researched revenue expectations; all ‘assumptions’ must be grounded in reality. I often see pro forma projections that contain so much gray matter that it’s as if they are plugged in with a ‘build it and they will come’ mentality. Whether you present your business plan to partners, investors or banks, a lack of due diligence and thorough preparation can be devastating once operations begin. Failure to capture the competition’s (aka your competitive set’s) business and clinic models—to help inform practical membership fees and services bundles—can also signal a practice’s impending death knell. Traditional marketing and communications ‘campaigns’ are typically expensive, hard to measure and, for most, economically unsustainable. A business plan that does not include a solid, sustainable strategy comprised of ongoing practice development tactics is a recipe for failure. At the end of the day or, more accurately, within several months, the reality on the ground—an evolving healthcare system, pushback from patients or prospects regarding fee schedule, and competition—often necessitates a pivot in strategy and, therefore, changes to one’s business plan. Those unprepared to adjust to market needs will not survive. 2. Copying Someone Else’s Business or Clinic ModelSure, you may have your eyes on an integrative and functional practitioner who seems to be doing quite well. Maybe a top name in the field: the expert with the three-month new patient wait-list, and large fees. Perhaps revenue numbers have been gleaned or shared, as well as clinical delivery models and basic processes. But if you’re launching (or trying to grow) a practice in Kalamazoo, and the practice you are modeling is based on La Jolla, there is no guarantee that copying the business or service model will succeed. Different markets and demographics require customized approaches to best meet the needs of the community. 3. Budget Lacking Investment in Critical PlacesBusiness plans that don’t include a smart marketing and communications plan—and the requisite line item to fund the positioning of its clinical ‘brand’ and to drive clinic utilization—are destined for disaster. Practices lacking a sustainable, practical strategy to fuel growth with a steady stream of new patients or clients often fail to adequately prepare for and invest in today’s essential, modern marketing and communications tools, including:
- A modern website built to communicate quickly, engage, and grab leads.
- A digital and physical ‘sales funnel’ designed to convert curious prospects to ‘fully engaged’ patients and customers.
- List-building techniques to grow a community of subscribers.
- Consistent in-house or contracted help to maintain and grow your marketing communications efforts and channels: media relations, updating website content, professional referral prospecting, coordinating talks and events, social media engagement, and partnership development, to name a few.