May 3, 2021
During the past several months I have listened to a lot of conversations and concerns about the long-term effect that COVID-19 will have on our industry. As with most discussions there are two sides: those who feel that we will never return to the pre-COVID days and those who believe that we will come back stronger than ever. So do you choose to believe that the glass is half empty or is it half full? I believe that the glass is more than half full. Members are hungry for the socialization that takes place in the Club and many have suffered without it for too long now. I also believe that there needs to be more focus on prevention and wellness programming. And who better to create and deliver these programs than the HEALTH CLUB industry. And as my good friend Dr. Bob Sallis says: “Health clubs need to be places where it is more than how a person looks in a bathing suit. They need to be more about hearts and lungs than abs and buns.” Clubs will need to be able to offer these services both in the Club and Virtually.
We have been saying for years that the Health Care and Fitness industries need to be working together instead of independently. Traditional medicine was not prepared for COVID where we saw hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics overrun with patients. In many cases people who were in need of surgical procedures or treatment for chronic illnesses often were not able or willing to receive treatment. And more than a year later and there are still parts of the country and businesses that remain closed. We are yet to realize the financial impact that COVID has had on our country and the world. We simply cannot go down this road again!
To begin with, as a country we need to do a much better job of educating people on how to manage their health care and their health care costs. We must put more emphasis on exercise and nutrition. The numbers don’t lie: over 75% of the U.S. population is over weight and 40% of the population is clinically obese. If these statistics don’t send a scary message to our state and national governments, something is drastically wrong. And if we continue down this road, the costs to treat the chronic medical conditions that result from this are surely going to bankrupt the system. We must put more emphasis on exercise and nutrition and healthy living.
Medical Fitness addresses this by combining a blend of exercise, nutrition, education and medicine. And Integrative Medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioners and patients. It is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate therapies. This can include relaxation, meditation, yoga, tai chi, vibration therapy, and other types of mind body programming.
Telemedicine is already part of the traditional medical paradigm. This is where a patient can call or go online and communicate their symptoms with the PA (physician assistant) or RN and get advice on whether they need to actually go in to see the doctor or if their symptoms can be treated at home. This helps to ease the patient overload that so many physicians struggle with today and allows the physician to spend time with more critically ill patients.
Through a Digital Platform a physician can refer a patient to a Club/Health Coach/Personal Trainer or a Registered Dietician (RD) to deliver an exercise and nutrition program virtually. If the Club doesn’t have an RD, you could use one from another Club who does employ one. The RD will be able to take a picture of the members Insurance Card and then see what programs are available in their plan through the Affordable Care Act or Medicare under the Wellness provision and whether they are reimbursable. The member could be put on a bioimpedance scale like an In-Body or MyZone and all the data and progress can be pushed back and forth from the Club to the Physician Assistant/RN in an encrypted and HIPPA compliant way and stored in the patient’s medical file.
Some qualified programs that are treating people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic; have hypertension or cardiopulmonary disease are reimbursable and I believe that more will soon qualify for 3rd party reimbursement. Your Club needs to be positioned to benefit from what is coming.
Leadership is a lot of things but one thing is for sure: leaders are optimistic; they have vision and do not depend on what worked yesterday to lead them forward; they are able to pivot and they lead with honesty, integrity and compassion.
Position yourself to be ready to board the train before it leaves the station. Exercise is Medicine.
Mike Alpert is the Chief Operating Officer of Smart Health Clubs. He can be reached at 951-205-1136 or firstname.lastname@example.org