Blog » Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine: The Assessment

Functional Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine: The Assessment

One of the biggest questions we get from our members is: “How does Functional Medicine assess my health and address my health concerns differently than conventional medicine?”

This is such an important question to address, as the Functional Medicine lifestyle is at the core of kNew Health’s approach to health assessments and individual care.

Let’s start at the beginning with the first part of any health program: the assessment phase.

The Difference Between a Functional Medicine Assessment vs. a Conventional Medicine Assessment

When you go to a conventional doctor, the first step is to complete or update your health history.

These generic forms ask a bunch of questions about your current health, any previous or pre-existing conditions, hospitalizations, medications and family history.

If you pay attention you’ll realize the majority of the questions focus on disease, not lifestyle or prevention.

You typically complete this form by yourself in the waiting room or through an online portal, and it’s given to the doctor or healthcare professional right as they walk into the room to see you for your appointment.

The doctor will then review this with you briefly (or not) when it’s your time to be seen, and may ask a question or two mostly focused on your pressing concerns.

After all this you may be left wondering why you had to fill out so much paperwork for such a brief appointment (the average doctor visit these days lasts only 7 minutes)!

In a Functional Medicine assessment, you provide the relevant history to help build what’s known as the Functional Medicine Matrix.

This is a detailed health and lifestyle intake form which kNew Health members complete online, and includes much of the information you would provide in a conventional medical intake, plus an extensive list of questions about your history as it pertains to the potential roots of your health concerns and other aspects of your lifestyle including, for example:

  • Diet
  • Digestive health
  • Food sensitivities
  • Exercise
  • Water consumption
  • Stress levels/coping skills
  • Sleep
  • Relationships
  • Dental health/issues
  • Environmental factors
  • Detoxification
  • Mood
  • And a food journal

And this is just a partial list of health and lifestyle topics covered in a Functional Medicine intake.

How long does it take to complete a Functional Medicine intake?

It can take up to 45 minutes to gather and complete all this information, but rest assured it is all essential to the process (and will be well worth it).

The purpose of such a lengthy intake is to get a full picture of your entire health, as this will afford us precious clues into what may be ailing you, why it is ailing you and how we can address it at the root.

For example, while it may seem insignificant to tell us about your dental health history and whether you have silver or porcelain fillings, this tiny bit of information can be incredibly valuable in getting to the bottom of specific, seemingly unrelated health concerns like an impaired ability to detoxify or low thyroid function.

Once you’ve completed your intake form, you will submit it online, it will be reviewed by our medical team (yes, we review the entire thing in detail), then passed on to your dedicated Health Coach who will go over it with you, along with the results of your lab work, during your initial appointment.

Which brings us to the next step in the kNew Health Functional Medicine assessment: lab work.

Next Step: Get Your Advanced Functional Medicine Lab Work

In a traditional medical appointment, your doctor may order routine or specific lab work to get a feel for your overall health and/or investigate symptoms.

For example, if you go to the doctor for a routine checkup they may, or may not, order labs to check your lipid levels, glucose levels and perhaps kidney function.

However, considering the amount of chronic disease brewing within these routine lab marker values, you have to wonder if these basic labs give a detailed enough picture of health and disease.

The main focus of conventional medicine lab testing is disease detection only. There is rarely a focus on predictive labs or root cause labs. That’s where Functional Medicine shines.

At kNew Health, we run a detailed, comprehensive series of lab tests to give us a comprehensive picture of your whole health including:

  • Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy—gives us a good picture of metabolism, mood, inflammation, bone health and hormonal balance
  • Thyroid Function with TSH and T3, free—gives us a comprehensive picture of your thyroid hormonal health and function, beyond just the standard TSH test
  • Ferritin (stored form of iron)—plays a role in energy and metabolism, supports muscle health, brain function, blood health and energy
  • Vitamin B12—serves a great role in energy, metabolism, brain function, mood and intestinal health
  • Homocyst(e)ine, Plasma—represents your body’s ability to use B-vitamins, specifically B12 and folic acid, and has vast implications to heart health
  • Insulin, Fasting—a marker of pre pre-diabetes used to catch blood sugar issues early
  • Hemoglobin A1c—covers the last 8-10 weeks of your average blood sugar levels and represents blood sugar’s affect on your tissues
  • Lipid Panel, Fasting—tests triglycerides and measures the size of your LDL levels and the total number, your HDL levels (high is good!) and cholesterol levels

Functional Medicine uses what’s known as “functional ranges” to analyze this lab work.

“Functional” ranges are different than “normal” or “conventional” lab marker ranges, in that they focus on the optimal range of nutrient and organ function in the body—the ranges that prevent disease and maintain good health.

These ranges are often higher or lower than conventional medical ranges, and your kNew Health Coach will help you understand these values.

Your Initial Functional Medicine Appointment at kNew Health

After completing your initial intake online and getting your blood drawn for functional lab testing, it’s time for your first appointment with your kNew Health Health Coach.

Unlike a typical doctor’s appointment which averages 7-10 minutes, this appointment will last one full hour.

This allows ample time to review your intake form, answer your questions, set goals and make recommendations for your individual health plan.

During this time, your kNew Health Health Coach will also help you understand your lab markers including what each of these markers mean to your present and future state of health, and how this data can help us help you reach your health goals.

That’s right. One full hour dedicated to understanding your health needs and goals, educating you on your lab markers, answering your questions and developing an individual health plan.

Pretty sweet, huh?

And the Functional Medicine assessment process—as shown through projects like The Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine—has been shown highly effective at addressing ailments at their root and preventing chronic disease.

Which is why we’ve chosen this model for kNew Health.

The kNew Health Functional Medicine Assessment Recap:

  • Complete the Functional Medicine matrix intake which includes a detailed health and lifestyle history
  • Get your advanced Functional Medicine lab work done at a local lab
  • Review your intake and lab work with your kNew Health certified Health Coach to determine your individual health needs, goals and health plan

In next week’s post, we’ll tackle the second part of this FAQ: “how does Functional Medicine differ from conventional medicine in its approach to addressing my health concerns?”

Click here to learn more about kNew Health’s membership programs and to get on the wait-list for 2018.

-The kNew Health Team

<a href="" target="_self">Joshua Rosenthal</a>

Joshua Rosenthal


Joshua Rosenthal MScED is a visionary in health and wellness. He is founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, an online higher education school where students are trained as Health Coaches. Founded in 1992, the school has a global community of 100,000 graduates in 155 countries worldwide. Joshua is the author of many books and holds a Masters of Science degree in Education.