3X4’s new Functional Medicine Practitioner Spotlight series features interviews with practitioners, consultants and functional medicine thought leaders to explore everything functional medicine practitioners need to know about successfully building, managing, and growing their private practice.
The following is an interview we recently had with Dr. Tiffany Mullen, CEO & Cofounder, Vytal Health.
What can you tell us about your practice?
TM: Vytal Health is a virtual integrative and functional medicine platform. Our physicians, nutritionists, and health coaches provide expertise for patients across the country to help them solve health problems that have been untreated or dismissed by traditional health care. While the company is headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, our services are completely delivered via telemedicine. We have experts from across the country in all aspects of integrative and functional medicine including women’s health (hormone imbalance, perimenopause, menopause, PCOS), fertility, gut health, autoimmunity, chronic Lyme disease and co-infections, men’s health, cognitive health, depression, anxiety, and much more. Any home-based lab test kits and customized supplement packets ordered by your Vytal Health physician are delivered to your door so you can achieve health without having to go out of your way to put it all together. We have been around for 3 years and are growing rapidly!
What surprised you the most when you started your practice?
TM: This is the first digital health startup company I’ve launched, so I feel like everything was a surprise! When you start a company (or a practice) from scratch, I think many of us feel very prepared and at the same time completely unprepared. One of the most surprising things I’ve noticed from the outset is how many of our patients follow their doctors from their traditional health care practices, where clinic visits and insurance billing are the norm, into Vytal Health, where your visits are completely on-line and insurance is removed from the equation. I think that speaks volumes about what kind of relationship our physicians have with their patients, and how valuable it is for patients to have their trusted health advisor in their corner.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome as you built your practice? How did you overcome it?
TM: Vytal Health was launched prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so receiving care via video was not the norm for most patients. When the first few patients from my prior clinic-based practice saw me for the first time on-line, I asked them,
“How does it feel to receive care this way?”
their answers were overwhelmingly positive. They expressed that they still felt the warmth and connection, and expressed relief for not having to travel to a busy clinic and wait in the waiting room with sick patients. We overcame a lot of initial hesitancy by having these patients tell their stories to others via reviews and social media. After COVID struck, obviously people have become very comfortable with on-line care, so this is no longer as much of a barrier.
What advice would you give to other practitioners considering launching their own practice?
TM: My best advice would be to talk with others who have been successful with their practices and learn from their mistakes and successes. Running a medical practice is difficult.
We are not taught business in medical school, and the regulatory and compliance environment in health care is dense and full of pitfalls.
If it feels like these hurdles are too high, consider joining a group where you can still be independent, but not have to do all of the heavy lifting running the business, like Vytal Health (shameless plug, sorry).
What excites you most about the field of functional medicine?
TM: I think of functional medicine as just plain “good medicine”. One of the things that most bothered me about getting into clinical practice after completing my first two years of basic sciences in medical school is that the whole practice of medicine (at least in primary care) shrinks down to matching symptoms to prescriptions. We forget about physiology and how all of the systems in the body interconnect and communicate with each other. Functional medicine allows a deeper understanding of root cause, and allows us to fix rather than cover. It is more complete, and appeals to those of us who are very curious and want to understand more (physicians and patients alike).
It allows us to get upstream and prevent illness, which can lead to a happier, healthier life.
Where do you see your practice 5 years from now?
TM: In 5 years, Vytal Health will be the largest integrative and functional medicine telehealth practice in the US. We will have a comprehensive group of physicians, nutritionists, health coaches, and other practitioners who surround their patients with love and support and provide answers that lead patients to regain their health. Working with the best physician for them, patients can develop a long-standing, trusting relationship with a physician that goes with them everywhere they go, through all stages of life.