How to Choose a Functional Medicine Doctor in Tampa

By: Dr. Matt Lewis, D.C., DACBN, CFMP®

Schedule A Personal Consultation with Dr. Matt Lewis Editor’s Note: In this post, we offer suggestions, advice and warnings for anyone who is looking for a doctor in Tampa and in particular, those who are seeking a functional medicine and integrative healthcare provider. We hope this Q&A — featuring the thoughts of Dr. Matthew Lewis — proves to be informative in that search. Dr. Lewis is a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.), a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition (DACBN), and a Certified Functional Medical Practitioner (CFMP®).

Q: Aside from a Google search, asking a friend, consulting with your insurer, or driving past a doctor’s office that appears inviting enough to walk inside, what are specific ways people can find a functional medicine doctor in Tampa who fits their needs?

A: Many functional medicine-trained doctors provide a public education service on their websites in the form of blog posts, articles or recordings of webinars. Same with their Facebook pages — assuming they use social media to engage with and educate patients. These can be helpful in offering potential patients more information about the doctor and his or her practice, as well as provide important insights into that doctor’s specific areas of expertise.

(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

Q: What questions are fair game for a doctor when trying to determine if he or she will be a good fit?

A: If it were me, there are three areas I’d focus on:

  1. Accessibility: I’d want to know how accessible the doctor is going to be. For example, my patients want to be actively involved in their own care. If you feel this way, ask if that’s possible with the doctor under consideration. Will the doctor be available to speak with you by phone or by using the practice’s HIPAA-compliant patient portal? Speaking with a team member is a good thing, but it’s comforting to know you have access to the doctor when you have questions or thoughts about your treatment.
  2. Follow Ups: I would want to know how often the doctor will follow up with me between treatments. I have had a number of patients who seek help from my office while already under treatment with another doctor because, in part, they’ve said they felt “lost in the shuffle.”

For example, one particular patient told me her doctor started a number of different IV therapies and she admitted she was feeling pretty good about the initial results. However, after a few treatments, the patient seemed to be regressing. She wondered if something should have been adjusted or decreased based on the initial positive response. She also wondered which one of the IV therapies was working. When she approached that doctor’s staff with her questions, she was told she should complete a certain number of IV treatments before her next doctor’s follow up. That left her with little choice but to continue with the initial treatment plan.

When the patient came to me, I discovered she would have benefitted by reducing — not increasing or continuing — treatment. Once we determined what was happening, we narrowed down which IV treatment was showing the most improvement. In this case, the initial doctor should have adjusted the treatment earlier and should not have held to an unwavering policy insisting the patient finish a treatment protocol before being able to see the doctor for a follow up. That’s why it’s important to have regularly scheduled follow ups with your doctor.

  1. Testing: I would also want to know about the tests that a prospective doctor may propose. I would want the doctor to run only those tests that would absolutely change the treatment plan. (I suggest this because I find many doctors are running tests that in fact won’t change the treatment plan.) For example, if the doctor already has a set diet plan that he or she is going to initiate, it might be unnecessary to perform a food allergy test. So, I may want to ask the doctor if he or she has a set schedule of testing or is testing going to be done on a case by case basis. Seems intuitive enough, however, in some busy practices procedures are firmly in place to support efficiency for the practice. And while the test might not hurt the patient, it also might not be necessary.

Q: Do you have a specific list of questions I might ask a prospective doctor?

A: Here are a few questions the Institute for Functional Medicine recommends you ask a prospective doctor:

  • Do you have information that you could send me regarding your practice?
  • Do you work with other clinicians such as nutrition professionals, health coaches, etc.?
  • Do you have experience treating my conditions(s)?
  • Please describe your Functional Medicine training.
  • Do you take insurance? Or are you a cash practice?
  • What are the main therapies that you use?  (examples: dietary, chiropractic adjustments, supplements, prescription medications).
  • Are these therapies typically covered by insurance?
  • Do you use laboratory tests (urine, stool, saliva, and/or blood)? What other kinds of assessments do you use? Are they typically covered by insurance?
  • What is the cost of an office visit?
  • How much time should I budget for my first appointment?
  • What should I do to prepare for my first visit?
  • Do you offer telephone or online consultations?
  • What options do you offer for after-hours contact?

 Q: What questions are off limit?

A: I would refrain from attempting to get an opinion on a diagnosis prior to an initial office visit. That’s because your doctor needs to do an assessment first. A successful patient interview can uncover so many important details that are then processed by the doctor, allowing time to think through your particular case.

Q: Why should someone seek a doctor with functional medicine training?

A: Finding a doctor who specializes in functional medicine and integrative healthcare is a good idea for the following patients:

  • Those who desire a natural approach to treating their condition(s)
  • Those who want to experience fewer side effects with safer treatments
  • Those who understand that most conditions that people suffer today are chronic — lasting three or more months — and are comfortable with a longer-term approach to permanently improving their condition
  • Those who have a desire to eat well, exercise more, perform at their best, and choose to be proactive with their health
  • Those experiencing digestive problems, autoimmunity, diabetes, depression, and pain
  • Those who are comfortable with hormone optimization.

Q: What are some clues that suggest that the doctor I’m considering is a good choice or fit?

A: A good doctor listens well, provides a thorough explanation of treatments and your options, and employs a professional office and medical staff. Other signs that the doctor you’re considering is a good fit — they’ve taken the time to write articles and blog posts covering the very health issues and concerns with which you’re currently living and trying to understand and overcome. A doctor who recognizes the value of educating patients with clear, concise, and plain-spoken content is one who understands your own role in being healthy.

Q: And finally, how can I determine that the doctor I’m considering might not be the best for my particular situation or condition?

A: It’s best to avoid a doctor who uses a cookie cutter approach to healing. Also, be wary if the first consultation is less than 30 minutes — especially if when you leave, you don’t feel like your concerns were actually heard. To avoid this from happening, ask up front how long the initial consult will take and what exactly the doctor covers during that time with you.

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