Medical Fitness: What it Really Means

Debra Siena.

Debra Siena.

Although “medical fitness” is a buzzword currently taking the health and fitness industry by storm, partly as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it poses a multitude of questions. For example, what exactly does “medical fitness” mean? How can health clubs get involved? And should health clubs get involved in the first place?

Debra Siena ponders these questions and more as the president of Midtown Health, a leader in fitness center management and employee wellness solutions owned by TCA Holdings, Inc. Through her association with TCA Holdings, which also operates Midtown Athletic Clubs, Siena sees through the lens of both a medical fitness and a health club operator.

“Through Midtown Athletic Clubs, I have one hat, which involves managing health clubs,” said Siena. “And then I have another hat, which involves the medical fitness side of things, through Midtown Health.”

As a result, Siena has a unique perspective on medical fitness and its role in the health and fitness industry. “Health clubs are looking at the ACA and the changes with health care reform, and they’re tying to look at how to jump into it,” she said. “I think that commercial clubs might be oversimplifying what getting involved with medical fitness means. [The health care system] is very different from owning and operating a traditional club.”

One of the most discussed avenues clubs can take to jump into medical fitness involves partnerships with hospitals. However, hospital-club partnerships may not be that easy to form. Before clubs pursue that approach, Siena advised that owners do their research.

“It’s challenging for a club to partner with a hospital because it’s two very different business models,” said Siena. “You seek health care because you have to, and they want you out as soon as possible.” This is the exact opposite of what club owners wish to accomplish, which is to retain.

Siena challenged club owners to ask the question, “What can my club do for a hospital?” After all, true partnerships involve a mutual benefit.

According to Siena, the answer may lie in helping patients before and after they see a doctor. “If clubs want to collaborate with health care, they should look at how they can take care of a patients’ wellness pre- and post-health care,” said Siena.

Bottom line — clubs owners must do their research before they consider jumping into the medical side of fitness.

“It’s not easy,” said Siena. “The health system has a completely different operating model. Club operators need to look at the actual clientele, and who the health system wants to help.”

 

By Rachel Zabonick

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