Back to Blog
Aug 3, 2022

How to Start a Functional Medicine Practice

by Dr. Dan Kalish

Functional medicine education almost entirely lacks a practical application component. I suppose the same may be true for cooking school; you learn how to be an amazing chef, and then struggle with starting your own restaurant. It’s not good for us as a profession, and it’s certainly not good for your potential patients if you are sitting on the sidelines!

Several years ago, in an effort to bring a practical application component to the forefront of functional medicine, I wrote a small book, “Five Pillars to Starting a Functional Medicine Practice.” I’m happy to send you a free PDF version if you’re interested. Just email [email protected] with the request, and we’ll send it your way. 

Since I wrote that book, the world has changed significantly, and functional medicine practitioners are more in demand than ever. More patients are looking for our services, investors are funding all sorts of functional medicine businesses, hospital groups are encouraging and paying salaries to motivated practitioners to start functional medicine treatment centers. Now is the time to take the plunge if you haven’t already! 

I speak with hundreds of doctors a year, and as much as we all may be afraid of financial ruin or a lack of patients, if you have a good business plan, you will be successful.

The elements to getting started are many and varied, but at a high level, I would break it down into two interdependent and equally essential categories. The first, is building a clear and scalable clinical model. To learn this on a detailed level, check out our Mentorship Program at

The second element is gaining an understanding of the business and how it will work. If you have this already done, then great - if not, then you can explore our Business Essentials Bootcamp offered several times per year.

Here is a basic checklist we work on with the students at The Kalish Institute to get practitioners started in building a clear and scalable clinical model, and gain an understanding of the business:

  • Detailed business plan and financial plan so you can verify your ideas are realistic
  • Configured sales and marketing systems (never pay for marketing in the beginning; your own voice is the best marketing)
  • Clearly outlined operational side, infrastructure, software (don’t spend a lot here),  legal roadblocks.
  • Learn how to interpret labs really well; It isn’t hard, it just takes repetition.
  • Learn a few things about lifestyle. Honestly, you can develop these skills as you go, but to start you need to have some preference as to the best diet, what types of exercise you want patients to do, sleep habits, and something about meditation.

Set up a list of action items and start to check them off. Most people we work with will keep their current job and just gradually add functional medicine days to their schedule so you don’t have to get dramatic and quit whatever you are doing now.

One of the greatest privileges of my life has been watching slightly nervous (and by that I mean totally scared) people start their own cash pay practice and see them take off into a full time clinical practice. It’s a life-changing and enriching process, and I’ve never seen anyone regret making the move. 

Functional medicine is emotionally and spiritually rewarding, requires close to zero paperwork, pays exceedingly well and there are, at this moment in time, literally hundreds of thousands of patients looking for your services. With the changes in telemedicine laws sweeping the country in response to the pandemic, you’ll have an easier time than ever incorporating telemedicine into your practice. Many practitioners these days will do the first visit or two in person and then shift over to follow ups via telehealth. There are some special considerations around a telehealth model but none of it is complicated. It just takes a little time to set up this type of practice so it’s streamlined, and for sure you need legal advice to make sure you are compliant with all state laws which vary from state to state considerably. 

One of my roles these days is to act as a catalyst to inspire, cajole, convince and push those new to functional medicine to get started now. Don’t wait. If you believe in the work, you can make it happen in an 18-24 month window.

Dr. Dan Kalish

Dr. Dan Kalish

Founder of the Kalish Institute
Dan Kalish, DC, IFMCP, is founder of the Kalish Institute, an online practice implementation training program dedicated to building Integrative and Functional Medicine practices through clinical and business courses.