On April 21, Club Solutions Magazine presented the fourth installment of a monthly virtual roundtable series on thought leadership, surrounding the future of medical fitness.
Panelists included Chris Craytor, the CEO of ACAC; Debra Siena, the president of Midtown Health; Karen Raisch-Siegel, the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General; Alan Loyd, the executive director of Beacon Health & Fitness; and Kevin McHugh, the COO of The Atlantic Club. The discussion was led and moderated by Rachel Zabonick-Chonko, the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. Sponsored by ASF.
The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on the future of medical fitness.
- Medical fitness is trying to blur the lines between the definition of member and patient.
- Blend of fitness, health and wellness.
- Health clubs serve as preventative care, so every member is a part of medical fitness.
Can Medical Fitness Improve the Industry’s Image?
- We have to prove the benefits of physical activity.
- We have a great industry; we just have to tell our story more effectively.
- The majority of people need our services, yet we aren’t reaching them. Medical fitness centers can break down those barriers.
- The sick care industry is broken, medical fitness can help improve that.
- We control our messaging. Start promoting immunity, health, etc. in your marketing.
- People don’t get healthy because they join a health club, they get healthy because they participate in programs.
- Physical inactivity is linked to more severe COVID-19 infections and a heightened risk of dying from the disease. That is something we can help improve.
Entering the Field
- Medical fitness is a commitment, you can’t dabble in it.
- Don’t use it just as a marketing strategy. Act and have a quality program.
- You have to have staff buy-in to be successful.
- It’s not a fad.
- It has to be top down and lived every day.
- You have to learn a lot.
- Medical fitness is integrated, it’s not something you can buy off the shelf.
- It’s easy to see medical fitness as an opportunity, but you have to ask yourself if you are ready for the commitment and responsibilities.
- You have to have the intention to help, not just use it as a membership add.
- It can be expensive; it is an investment.
- You don’t have to have everything in place on Day 1.
- You have to have a strong relationship with the physicians you will work with.
- Relationships with your providers are essential. Keep constant communication. Sustaining these relationships is what keeps you going.
- There is a lot of uncertainty around medical fitness.
- It takes a year or two to get ingrained and make sure everyone knows their role.
- Have common goals with the health system you are working with.
- It takes time to get medical fitness certified, have a medical fitness advisory board and make quality programs that doctors can refer patients to.
- Track patient outcomes to prove what you are doing works.
- Doctors don’t know how to prescribe exercise, help them develop that program.
- Make sure your club can handle new medical populations. Make sure you have people who look like them. Your club can’t be scary or intimidating. Make sure you can handle all types of people.
- Medical Fitness Association, IHRSA, other clubs have resources that can help you learn more.
- Ask yourself, “What can you provide to the medical community?”
New Type of Members
- As operators you want to systemize, but each person’s journey is unique and different and will need different journeys.
- The best trainer in your club for helping train for an Ironman, may not be the best to work with a medical prescribed person.
- Dedicate people to programs who can help them onboard.
- Create new areas in club. Have private areas to intake sessions, understand their needs and challenges.
- Prescribed programs should follow HIPPA protection. You have to be certified. You need to have staff who have empathy for this population.
- Utilize the low population times to offer these special programs to help people feel more comfortable.
- You may have to upgrade your equipment for medical fitness. Make sure it is easy to use. Some members who join maybe have never been in a gym before.
Starting the Partnerships
- Doctors workout at your clubs, talk to them.
- Consider integrating physical therapists into your facility.
- Go out and get boots on the ground. Go into doctor offices and pitch your ideas.
- Ask doctors what you can do to help the medical community.
- Have an open space in between your medical service like therapy to break down the barriers.
- Rotate your advisory boards. Your doctors will promote your services to more physicians they work with.
- You don’t have to build a new wing of your facility. Integrate the work into your facility. You aren’t two separate entities.
- Ask yourself, “If you have never been in a club before, where would you get started?”
- Doctor referrals will make or break your programs. If someone has a negative experience the doctor is likely to stop referring more. Follow up and make sure things are going well.
- Diabetes programs are a great place to start.
- A full medical fitness facility certification is a lot of work, but you come out of it as a better company.
- A lot of great programs already exist and can easily be plugged into your facility.
- For staff certifications look at ACE and ACSM and consider going through health coaching certifications.
- AED, first aid, CPR, etc. are great to have as well.
- Health physicians are hungry for this service, integration and collaboration.
- This shows the maturing of the fitness industry. It’s not optional, you just have to determine how involved you want to be.
- Just get started where you are comfortable and let it grow from there.
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