Putting Lifestyle Medicine into Practice at Rochester Regional Health
Despite its incredible potential to save lives and cut medical costs, lifestyle medicine (LM) has struggled to fit into the existing medical system. Because of this, most lifestyle medicine practitioners are either providing LM advice to their patients in a limited way in a system that doesn’t give them time or money to do this work, running independent practices and not billing insurance directly for LM services, or aligned with lifestyle medicine centers doing research and are supported by grant funding. None of these strategies help LM become the corner stone on which our health care system should be built, as ACLM has strongly advocated. To make LM the foundation of health care, it needs to be firmly imbedded in primary care, which is what our current health care system is built around. This is the model that Rochester Regional Health is building in upstate New York.
Rochester Regional Health is both actively retro-training already employed primary care clinicians and actively recruiting new lifestyle medicine certified providers to offer lifestyle medicine services for our network of 66 primary care sites over 9 counties . Our goal is for all of the patients within our system to be educated about the profound role lifestyle plays in their health and have access to the lifestyle medicine resources and support that they need to make healthy lifestyle change. Because lifestyle transformation often requires intensive and ongoing support, we believe that it is best provided close to where the patient lives or works and where he or she is comfortable receiving their care.
The current office model has one hybrid primary care/ LM clinician to whom other providers may refer for LM consultation. In addition, the office has a lifestyle medicine coach who can work with patients who need more guidance and support. We offer a free presentation quarterly on the health benefits of a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, followed by a 4 week class at nominal cost for those who would like help transitioning to a (more) WFPB diet, using the Forks Over Knives Plan book as our “”textbook””. In addition, we offer a free monthly WFPB potluck support group, a free monthly mindfulness session to practice various stress reduction techniques, and a quarterly workshop on creating a personal stress management plan. We also run Dr. Darren Norton’s Lift Project, a 10-session class that has been proven to improve wellbeing and reduce depression by 30%. We bill insurance for individual appointments, using modifier 33 whenever applicable to reduce out of pocket costs to patients. In addition, patients who require LM services but are unable to afford them can apply for foundation funding based on their income.
As an organization with a strong accountable care organization as well as numerous capitated contracts, investments in lifestyle medicine is the right thing to do for the financial health of our system as well as the right thing to do for patient health. Lifestyle medicine helps us hit the quality measures that determine system reimbursement from the ACO and also helps decrease costs for our capitated patients.
We host ongoing lifestyle medicine CME activities for our providers and have partnered with the NY Kitchen for educational events and WFPB
cooking classes. As an organization, we are constantly looking for community partnerships that promote that health really is in your hands (and feet!).
- List at least 3 ways patients benefit when lifestyle medicine is incorporated directly into primary care rather than as a stand-alone program.
- Describe 5 or more ways to incorporate lifestyle medicine into a primary care office.
- List at least 3 benefits a health system receives when it promotes lifestyle medicine in the primary care setting.