Dr Sara Gottfried, MD, said she sees her new role at the practitioner channel specialist as a way to help energize a needed shift in the way health care is delivered in the United States. Her own experiences as a physician (Dr Gottfried is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology) led her to the conclusion that the present system is running on fumes.
“I think of Metagenics as more than just a supplement company. I view it as a vehicle for the transformation of medical care,” Dr Gottfried told NutraIngredients-USA.
Transforming the system
Dr Gottfried said in her own practice she experienced the increasing pressures physicians labor under. Getting squeezed down to seven minutes or so on each visit meant most aspects of getting a holistic view of the patient went out the window and it boiled down to a brief overview of test results and the issuing of prescriptions.
“Physician burnout is a real thing. More than 40% of MDs have diagnostic criteria for depression. We have a crisis in terms of the way that physicians are operating,” she said.
“We know that somewhere around 70% to 80% of heath care costs are lifestyle related and much of that is totally preventable with a lifestyle medicine approach,” Dr Gottfried said.
Dr Gottfried said she tried to change this system from within while working at Kaiser Permanente. She said she ultimately chose to leave to found her own functional medicine clinic, both for her patients’ wellbeing and her own.
“The healthcare paradigm is shifting. I wish I could have transformed that on my own. I have tried that by myself for the past 25 years and I realized I needed a strategic partner,” she said.
Dr Gottfried said the nutritional foundation of physicians is still sorely lacking, which will be one of her primary focuses with the company.
“The reimbursement structure has deincentivized lifestyle medicine and has given rise to specialists and reimbursements for procedures. More upstream, the problem is even deeper,” she said.
“When Andrew Weil went through Harvard Medical School, he said he had 30 minutes of education on nutrition. I had the same experience when I went through Harvard,” Dr Gottfried said.
Metagenics CEO Brent Eck said Dr Gottfried’s role will be slightly different that the one previously occupied by company pioneer Dr Jeff Bland. Dr Gottfried, who in addition to her professional credentials is also the author of several books, will be primarily focused on bolstering Metagenics’ physician outreach. Eck said while Metagenics has many contacts in this area, much more can be done.
“There are about one million physicians in the US. That goes up to about two million if you add in naturopaths, chiropractors and other practitioners,” Eck said.
“Worldwide there are about 4.5 million physicians and about 7 million allied health care practitioners. Today in the US our active customer base is about 30,000,” he said.
Eck said Dr Gottfried will be instrumental in presenting the data that will be generated from Metagenics’ own study, dubbed LIFE HOUSE. This will enroll about 375 current employees, gather baseline data and then track the changes that arise from lifestyle interventions. The goal is to put some hard data around the health care costs savings that can come from supplementation and other interventions.
“I am hopeful that that will generate a convincing body of evidence that will open up some conversations with some C-suite executives,” Eck said.