17 December, 2019

New study shows benefits of functional medicine for patients

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NEW RESEARCH into the functional medicine model of healthcare, a form of integrative medicine, has demonstrated beneficial and sustainable outcomes for patients. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.

Until this study, the evidence to support the functional medicine model of care has been anecdotal, primarily published as case reports. This study is the first of its kind to evaluate the impact of the functional medicine model of care on patients’ health-related quality of life.

The aim of the two-year study was to assess the association between functional medicine and patient-reported outcome measures. The study examined 1,595 patients treated in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine and 5,657 patients seen in primary care at a family health center (7,252 patients in total), assessing health-related quality of life using internationally accepted patient health-related quality of life (HRQoL) reporting systems.

The study found that at 6 months, functional medicine patients exhibited significantly larger improvements in self-reported scores than patients treated at a conventional family health centre. It concluded,

“In this study, the functional medicine model of care demonstrated beneficial and sustainable associations with patient-reported HRQoL. Prospective studies are warranted to confirm these findings.”

Although the study did not include a cost-benefit analysis in scope, these findings clearly indicate potential cost savings to the health system. In the US, people with chronic illness contribute to around 90% of national health care expenditure, which is comparable to the situation in Australia.

Without the adoption of new approaches that focus on targeting the cause of chronic diseases and reversing them, our current model of healthcare is at risk of becoming economically unsustainable and no longer viable.

About Functional Medicine

Functional medicine is a form of integrative medicine that, in addition to combining complementary and conventional therapy methods within a holistic framework of patient care, looks at the body as a whole and focuses on the root causes of disease rather than isolated sets of symptoms.

By contrast, conventional care is focused on managing symptoms of disease (eg, hypertension, abnormal blood glucose level), but underlying causes are rarely identified or treated.

Functional medicine takes into account evidence that lifestyle factors – such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress levels, relationships and genetics – are significant contributors to chronic disease and obstacles to health improvement. It seeks to restore health by addressing underlying causes, symptoms, and functional imbalances in interconnected biological networks.


Beidelschies M, Alejandro-Rodriguez M, Ji X, Lapin B, Hanaway P, Rothberg MB. Association of the Functional Medicine Model of Care With Patient-Reported Health-Related Quality-of-Life Outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1914017. doi:

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