Interview with Laurie Hoffman: “Functional medicine seeks the why and the how”

The first course on this new approach to medical practice in the region was held in Lima

By Bruno Ortiz Bisso, El Comercio

Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola recently held the first Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice course. El Comercio spoke with Laurie Hoffman, CEO of the Institute for Functional Medicine, on the details of this new approach to medicine.

What is functional medicine?
It’s the future of medicine. It’s a different approach to chronic disease by physicians in treating their patients. The idea is to find the causes of chronic diseases. It isn’t limited to relieving symptoms, as occurs with conventional medicine. A functional medicine practitioner takes time with the patient, seeking information about his/her lifestyle and genetic or other factors that may affect the patient’s state of health. This is achieved through analysis of the patient’s biological systems. The doctor seeks to bring those systems into balance. Functional medicine asks why and how. It is not herbal, holistic or alternative medicine.    

If the idea is to dedicate more time to the patient, how can everyone be served, given the current situation?
Studies have shown that a patient talks no more than 30 seconds during an appointment before the doctor interrupts him/her the first time. In the USA, a number of models are being tested. The Cleveland Clinic already has a functional medicine department. In order to make it viable, the department works with groups of 8 to 12 patients with the same disease. Each patient is seen by a doctor for a short time before attending group health education sessions. It has been demonstrated that this has a dual positive effect: an economic one, because the appointment is still billed, and a health-related effect, since it has been demonstrated that group therapy yields better results than individual sessions in these cases. Other models are being tested as well.    

Is functional medicine geared toward physicians in a certain specialty?
It is geared toward physicians in general, as well as nurses, nutritionists and other health professionals. It is a body of knowledge that will improve health care in the population. Courses like the one held in Lima make it possible for physicians to acquire the necessary tools and begin using them.