It is amazing that physician networking is so infrequently explored by the personal training community. A November 2007 press release from the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the launch of a new initiative called Exercise is Medicine, a program designed to encourage America’s patients to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their daily routine.
The initiative encourages doctors to prescribe exercise to their patients. In the press release, the results of a survey by the ACSM revealed that nearly two-thirds of patients would be more motivated to exercise if advised by their doctor and given additional resources.
Exciting! Imagine the 40 plus million overweight and obese individuals in this country being informed that they must engage in exercise. You’d be surprised at the number of physicians who currently aren’t encouraging their patients to exercise, or at least weren’t until this announcement from the AMA and ACSM.
So how can you ensure that this initiative actually allows you to increase your client base with physician networking? You can begin with an introductory letter, which should be attached to a business card with full contact information. Here is an example:
Dear Dr. _____
As a wellness professional providing health, nutrition, and fitness services in the ______ community, I offer a complete chronic disease management package for overweight and obese individuals. This program includes preventive measures for individuals who struggle with excess weight, metabolic syndrome, and resistance to proper exercise. My comprehensive approach utilizes a combination of nutritional counseling, lifestyle coaching and exercise program design. By adopting a synergestic approach to address the multiple challenges facing the overweight or obese patient, I provide a successful environment for reducing chronic disease risk factors while improving wellness.
I use the following procedures in my approach:
� Resting metabolic rate calculation
� Flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular endurance testing
� Body composition determination
� Nutritional consulting and meal plan design
� Personal training and exercise program design
� Lifestyle wellness coaching
Research has shown that the combined approach of proper fitness and nutrition management can reduce multiple risk factors associated with obesity, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, heart disease, stroke and arthritis. By working with my facility on a referral basis, you can provide an effective disease management program for your patients.
You can contact me at any time to enroll any patient. To satisfy HIPAA regulations, I have enclosed an authorization of release of medical information, as well as a physician’s approval form. You may copy and utilize these documents during our interaction. I look forward to working with you.
In the same envelope as this letter, I recommend including an Authorization of Release of Medical Information Form and a Physician’s Approval to Exercise Form. Although you can create these forms yourself, comprehensive physician communication materials are available at the website exerciseismedicine.org.
I recommend following this letter with a personal phone call to the office of each physician. The best time to call is prior to 8am, when the doctor is in the office but is not yet seeing patients, or during the lunch hour, when many physicians remain in the office for paperwork or taking patient notes. Do not wait until 5pm when the doctor will be trying to rush out and may be annoyed at your call.
Make each call short and sweet, “Hi, this is Ben Greenfield. I understand you’re probably busy with patients, but I just wanted to make sure that you received my letter about the exciting new fitness and nutrition program I’m offering for chronic disease management. It’s just a free referral service in which I take on your patients and teach them how to exercise and eat properly.”
Pause for a reply. They either received the letter or didn’t, but either way, continue:
“Would you mind just quickly jotting my office phone number down for your office manager to schedule patient consultations at my training studio. Anytime you have a patient that needs to exercise, I can work cooperatively with you to oversee their program, and of course we satisfy all HIPAA regulations in our procedures. Thanks for your time, doctor. I look forward to helping.”
That’s it, and very few of the personal trainers in your community are doing it, usually because they haven’t yet learned to work cooperatively with the medical system, or because they don’t have access to the few simple documents that are necessary for legal privacy considerations. This entire movement is backed by funding from the AMA and the ACSM. What does this mean to you? Our nation’s top fitness and medical professionals are taking this seriously, and as the exercise expert, you are a key cog in the wheelset.
By using the resources above, you’ll open the door to hundreds, and depending on the size of your community, potentially thousands of patients who have been ordered to exercise by a physician. These are desperate people who need you to save or vastly improve the quality their life, and they’re willing to pay for it!
Will your personal training services ever be covered by insurance? To date, no billing codes exist. .But in the near future, health insurance could actually cover the cost of fitness prescription in the same manner that it currently covers often needless procedures such as gastric bypass surgery. If an insurance company can pay over a hundred thousand dollars for a surgery, then 3-6 months of personal training could certainly be justified. Will you be ready?
MS, CPT, CSCS, CISSN
President, Pacific Elite Fitness
Director of Sports Performance, Champions Sports Medicine