Understand the Functional Medicine Patient Mindset: Keys to Increase Acquisition & Loyalty

We asked 500 patients what they expect from their functional medicine providers. Their responses might surprise you.

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How to acquire new patients is the ever-present challenge faced by functional medicine practitioners. Perhaps the even greater obstacle? How to earn their loyalty and advocacy. That’s where the real rewards of long-term growth and patient lifetime value (PLV) multiply.

These pain points often beg a series of diagnostic questions:

  • Is it our quality of care?
  • Should we adjust our pricing?
  • Can we offer additional services?
  • Is our functional medicine marketing effective?

While all of these elements impact success, we wanted to dig deeper into additional aspects of the patient experience – online search behavior, patient satisfaction, treatment plans, health outcomes, etc.  – and understand their connection to patient satisfaction and retention. Since there are few studies that examine patients and their journey in a functional medicine setting, we did the next best thing: We asked them ourselves.

The functional medicine patient perception report

Born out of a need for more patient experience data in this segment, the Functional Medicine Patient Perception Report examines key aspects of the patient experience – Attraction, Satisfaction, Retention and Attitudes – and explores expectations at each stage of the journey. A total of 500 adult patients participated in the study, giving our team powerful evidence as to what’s really important to them. Each section of the report also delivers actionable strategies that lead to happier, healthier patients. And, ultimately, stronger business results lead by informed functional medicine marketing.

Top Takeaway: Make Communication Your Central Focus

A thorough analysis of the responses gave way to an overarching theme that didn’t come as a surprise: Clear, consistent communication leads to increased patient satisfaction and success. But we’re not just talking about when they’re in your office. We’re talking about before, during and beyond the treatment program. Unfortunately, so many healthcare organizations overlook the beyond stage (i.e. maintenance, retention, etc.) where the greatest upsell opportunities lie.

Patients don’t “come and go” anymore, nor are they replaceable commodities. In 2021, the wellness industry is more crowded and competitive than ever. Nearly 90% of our respondents said they consider 2-3 functional medicine practices before their final selection. Practices that prioritize the right communication at the right times will not only increase acquisition numbers, but they’ll forge the most loyal, rewarding relationships.

A Few Surprises

While you’ll need to download the complete report to access all of the insights, there were a few interesting surprises that drew our attention:

  • Patients want to know pricing upfront, but cost is not a top decision-making factor. Other factors, including relief from symptoms, health optimization and feeling heard by the practitioner were ranked as more important. This suggests an opportunity to raise costs or charge for value-added services.

That said, pricing is still an important touchpoint that’s tied to patient satisfaction. In fact, 85% of respondents who receive information about pricing on their provider’s website or at the initial consultation are extremely/very satisfied. This proves that practitioners must prioritize pricing on the website so patients understand the nature of the investment. When unexpected costs arise, they’ll lose trust in the relationship.

  • Patients want a visual process so they can understand where they are in their journey to wellness. Some patients may not realize that their commitment to functional medicine is a journey, not a destination. A process roadmap helps you demonstrate how they can get from Point A to Point B to Point C – and onward to the celebratory outcome. These steps should be communicated upfront, on your website or during the initial consultation, for credibility and throughout the patient experience with associated metrics.

The numbers prove that a clearly communicated process is worthwhile. When a step-by-step process is clearly communicated upfront, 85% of patients report being extremely or very satisfied with their functional medicine practice.

  • Patients want more from their functional medicine practices, even after their initial treatment plan is complete. While your treatment plans likely reach an end point, the majority of satisfied functional medicine patients want additional support. Our data shows that they’re willing to buy wellness products and services like massage, yoga, acupuncture, etc. if offered.

The lesson here: Don’t let the conversation fall flat after treatment. Ask your patients follow-up questions and reach out if you have new products or services that may be of interest. You can also consider sending them emails, automated texts, etc. with actionable wellness tips or to let them know you’re here for them. Even small communication gestures can go a long way in this space.

Your Path to Increased Patient Acquisition & Retention

There are plenty more surprises and data-based insights within the comprehensive report. If you’re questioning ways to increase your patient numbers, loyalty, referrals, etc., you don’t have to look any further. We have their direct feedback – what’s important to them and when – right here for you.


Jackie Bebenroth is Founder and Chief Brand Advisor of Muse. She works alongside leading brands and executives to develop strategic positioning and messaging strategies that set the stage for long-term success. Her work, from local restaurant branding to six-figure global initiatives, has flown her around the country to speak on the art of content marketing. Jackie has earned a number of accolades, most notably a SXSW Interactive finalist award, the American Advertising Federation’s 40 under 40 award and Content Marketing Institute’s Content Marketing Leader of the Year.

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