Doctors – Do You Refer Your Obese Patients to Fitness Professionals?

One of the most important things that I have learned as a professional Personal Trainer and business owner over the years is that I frequently can’t get my clients the results that they want on my own (beware any Personal Trainer who claims that they can); I need to maintain a network of other qualified professionals that complement the fitness expertise that I provide.  Yes, I can design fitness programs and assess human movement with the best of the best, but I am not a Doctor, Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Nutritionist, Psychologist, or Massage Therapist. Sometimes those other professionals provide services that are exactly what my clients need in addition to what I can provide for them. This is true for many things, but especially weight loss for those living with obesity and the many chronic diseases that go with it.

Since obesity is frequently caused or exacerbated by poor lifestyle choices, wouldn’t it make sense for Physicians to more aggressively treat unhealthy lifestyles rather than just prescribe medications that only manage the symptoms of chronic illness rather than cure it? If you are a Doctor, do you talk to your overweight or obese patients about the importance of weight loss and what they need to do to achieve it? Do you give them specific instructions about what they need to eat and/or what type and how much exercise they need to do? Or do you just tell them they need to diet and exercise and leave them to figure it out on their own? Do you refer your obese patients to professional personal trainers, licensed nutritionists, or licensed psychologists? If not, why not??

If you’re a Physician who’s interested in better serving your patients, consider building your own network of allied health professionals that can fill the voids that you can’t. If you’d like to refer your obese patients to me for physical exercise, here’s how I handle it:

1) Fill out a written medical clearance form that indicates any specific exercise restrictions or recommendations and give it to your patient during their annual physical or follow up appointment. They are already sitting in front of you so everything is fresh in your mind, and it sends a message to your patient that you’re serious about them starting an exercise program. You can download my post rehab medical release form and tweak it to fit your needs if you wish. This eliminates postage and eliminates them having to call you later because they’ll need to get medical clearance before starting an exercise program (needing to call the Doc and wait to get clearance stops some people in their tracks). I’d recommend making a copy to keep in their file so that when they lose it (and many of them will), it’s easier to re-send a copy to the patient rather than having to fill out another form while trying to remember the details of that particular person which you saw several months ago.

2) Indicate whether you’d like to receive progress reports from me regarding the progress of your patient.

3) If you’d like to receive progress reports, indicate how often and how you’d like to receive them (fax, email, snail mail, etc.).

4) Sign and date the form.

5) Give the form to your patient, who will then bring it with them to give to me when (if) they start training with me. You will know if they start a program with me because I will contact you with their initial assessment results and plan of action regarding their exercise program (if you indicated you want to receive reports).

Final thoughts: in my own experience, when I’ve just recommended that my client see another professional such as a massage therapist or nutritionist, only about 20% of them followed through. When I did the leg work to find allied professionals whose philosophy matched mine, I have close to 80% compliance when I recommend a specific individual or business. Yes, it takes time and effort to build and maintain a referral network, but it’s a win win for everybody, especially my clients and your patients. If you have any questions about how I can help you help your patients, feel free to contact me at any time!

I am always receptive to hearing from other allied professionals who may be interested in expanding their referral networks. If you are a Massage Therapist, Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Nutritionist, Psychologist, Chiropractor, or Physician and are interested in learning more about how we can help each other and our clients/patients, feel free to contact me.

 

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