Functional Primary Care | Part 1:

Functional Primary Care: The Next (Right) Step in Healthcare

Dr. Aaron Hartman

October 3, 2023

Male patient female medical practitioner
Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Who would benefit from adopting a functional medicine approach to their personal healthcare?

    Anyone. Everyone.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, functional medicine is just good medicine.

    But it’s also an investment in time from both doctor and patient. Yes, anyone would benefit from functional medicine … but how much of an investment is needed to get the benefit that’s right for you?

    Our time is precious. How we choose to invest it matters.


    Changes in Care

    I began my medical career in the Air Force, serving on military bases in Germany and in Florida. As you might imagine, the military is efficient. Time with patients was calculated, measured, reported, and often prescribed. I learned to be efficient within the confines of military structures.

    When I left the military and went into private practice (including ten years in the hospital and ICU) I expected to have more time to care for people. Unfortunately, due to insurance and industry changes, I was forced to accept less and less time with patients and expected to refer them out to specialty care. That was an unfortunate, wrong, step in healthcare.

    In researching how to better care for my daughter, I discovered functional medicine. I’ve shared that story in a few other places. At present, what interests me is the paradigm shift in time.

    As the medical industry continued to change (and time with patients dwindled), I first had to choose between working in the hospital or family practice. Several years later I had to choose between family practice or functional medicine. I followed my heart, mind, and soul and went with functional medicine.

    Functional medicine provided a unique opportunity for me to invest time: time spent with patients; time spent learning about and researching on behalf of patients. Time is a big part of the “secret sauce” that makes functional medicine … just good medicine. Time is a major factor in uncovering the root cause of many complex and mysterious illnesses. Sometimes, however, the investment in time is overkill.

    As the medical landscape continues to evolve, I am happy to report a step in the right direction.

    When I started Richmond Integrative & Functional Medicine in 2017, “functional medicine” was still largely unknown and unrecognized, but I could already see that some of the best medical research and publications flowed from functional medicine. Six years later, FM is both widely recognized and valued. After all, functional medicine is just good medicine. As the benefits of FM continually manifest in patients’ lives and medical literature, a new model of healthcare is developing: Functional Primary Care.

    Female doctor places hand on should of young woman

    Filling a Crucial Gap

    The healthcare spectrum has a noticeable gap between traditional primary care and full functional medicine. While one addresses immediate concerns, the other delves deep into the root causes of ailments. Functional Primary Care bridges this gap.

    Modern patients are more informed and proactive about their health than ever before. They seek comprehensive care that doesn’t just address symptoms but understands the underlying causes. Functional Primary Care responds to this demand, providing a more holistic view of health without the full commitment that generally goes hand in hand with “full” functional medicine.

    Perhaps a picture would help.

    Infographic Variable Depths of Diving

    Just like swimming at the surface of the ocean allows you to cool off and enjoy the water, traditional primary care addresses immediate symptoms and offers a basic level of health maintenance. It’s accessible and straightforward, but you’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible in terms of understanding and treating your health.

    There is a world to discover under the ocean’s surface. And many people do dive deep into the ocean to explore its ecosystems. We all benefit from their discoveries. Scuba diving, however, requires specialized equipment, training, and a substantial time commitment. This is a bit like the deep commitment involved in pursuing a full functional medicine approach to health. It’s amazing. It’s worthwhile. It benefits us all. It’s maybe a bit much for everyone.

    But there is a pretty amazing middle ground.

    With just a mask and a snorkel, you can explore what’s going on beneath the water’s surface and discover a whole new world that’s richer and more complex than what you can see from the surface. You don’t need specialized training, but having a guide can greatly enhance your experience.

    Functional Primary Care is similar: it allows you to explore beyond mere symptoms without requiring a deep commitment of time or resources. With the right healthcare provider as your guide, you can gain valuable insights into your health and well-being.

    Functional Primary Care is similar: it allows you to explore beyond mere symptoms without requiring a deep commitment of time or resources. With the right healthcare provider as your guide, you can gain valuable insights into your health and well-being.

    Having the right guide is critical.

    Dr. Jenski and I have had our eyes on the Functional Primary Care model for a while now, but we’ve been waiting for the right guide. If you’ll stick with the analogy, we’ve been looking for the right snorkeling instructor.

    And the good news is that we found her. In my next article, I’d like to introduce you to Jodi.

    Primary Care

    Dive Only As Deep As You Need.