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What Is Functional Medicine and Where Is It Going?

Written by: Dr Tim Trodd (Functional Medicine)

Functional Medicine is becoming mainstream. Before long, with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI), most General Practitioners / Family Physicians (GP’s) will be practicing Functional Medicine.

At medical school doctors are taught to think in a linear fashion. The patient has a complaint, we take a history, examine the patient, perhaps do some investigations, make a diagnosis, and give a treatment, almost always a medicine. Contrast this with AI which approaches a problem by looking at countless relationships and possibilities. Without doubt the AI approach is more powerful and will supersede the classical linear model we have been using, within a few years probably. AI is not constrained by standard practice and protocols or by specialism, it can look at the whole picture and can (and will) provide a global holistic solution.

I call the standard linear medical process “turning right”. It has definite power for treating disease and has been incredibly successful in improving the detection and treatment of disease over my career. Now we are increasingly confronted with problems for which it is not designed to cope. How do we increase healthspan as we age, that is maintain function? How do we use our knowledge of biological processes to treat complex multisystem problems such as Long Covid? How do I maximize benefit for this individual with their particular biology, when I know that using set protocols cannot deliver the best outcomes?

To get the best outcomes requires a paradigm shift, no longer “turing right” but asking question such as “how do I make a difference to overall health? what is really happening here? what is the biological process and how do I improve it?

There will always be a place for specialist medicine. Patients are going to need operations, treatment for disease such as cancer, have babies, of that there is no doubt. However, the life journey will, hopefully, only require patients to dip into these specialist services as required.  The individual will carry their health data with them, add to this data every day with wearables and take an active part in ensuring the maintenance of their health, right now and, also, decades into the future. Regular medical checks will still take place, we do need to detect and treat disease, but, there will be a far bigger input for the things that really make a difference in the future i.e. nutrition, body composition, strength, flexibility , balance and the program may need the input of a team, GP, manual therapist, trainer etc.

Doctors, particularly GP’s, need to prepare themselves for this shift, or risk becoming irrelevant. We can lead and facilitate this process or be left behind. The GP can become a health screener and conductor of the team for that individual. Hopefully, our specialty will embrace these changes and be part of the future of healthcare.

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Topics: Health & Wellness, Wellness & Functional Medicine

Dr Tim Trodd

Dr Tim Trodd

Family Medicine, Functional Medicine, General Practice

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