“We recognize that the current healthcare model labels people and asks them to conform. My clinical experience is that when you label someone, it can put a stigma on them, and then they can stigmatize themselves. At Philadelphia Integrative Medicine, we understand your underlying physiology, personalize solutions for you, and care for you by giving you the tools to be well. " - Georgia K. Tetlow, MD, ABOIM, ABPMR, IFMCP [* MD – Medical Doctor, ABOIM – American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPMR – American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, FMCP – Institute of Functional Medicine Certificate Program]
Dr. Tetlow started Philadelphia Integrative Medicine eleven years ago to provide personalized and healing-oriented healthcare to improve the quality of her patient’s lives. At a young age, Dr. Tetlow knew she wanted to become a physician and understand the “why” behind people’s illnesses, particularly those with chronic diseases. “Traditional medicine focuses on acute care and is very transactional. It doesn’t meet the needs of the chronic illness model with issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and inflammatory illness. I wanted to understand what was happening in the body and its symptoms.”
After medical school, she completed a Fellowship at Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, sponsored by Jefferson University Hospital. During this time, she focused on the different causes of chronic illnesses and how to personalize treatment so the patient can get better. As she started her practice, she “wanted to connect with her patients and empower them to help change the level and status of their health. In doing so, they can become more independent.”
Philadelphia Integrative Medicine takes into account the whole person and his or her lifestyle. This therapeutic approach looks at the underlying physiology to address the root cause of why someone does not feel well. Practitioners don’t just treat the symptoms. An as example, they help patients understand why their thyroid is not working, why they don’t digest well, and what they can do to reverse a chronic condition. Initially, the practice offers a free consultation to discuss what the patient would like to address. The practitioners want to empower the patients and need their participation to work together on a plan, including proposed recommendations and treatments.
The Path to Success
As Dr. Tetlow has built her practice over the years, three indicators of success stand out to her. First, the practice receives patient referrals from family members and friends. PIM is often treating multi generations of a family. Second, many patients get better and the practitioners no longer need to continue to see them regularly. This is a true testament to what the practice is trying to achieve: getting the patients to understand how to manage their illness and learning to control it. Third, PIM has a very good reputation and relationship with many other doctors in the community. These physicians understand, value and respect what the practice is trying to achieve in patient care.
How did the practice survive during the pandemic? COVID-19 caused a shock, a profound sense of the unknown, and tremendous uncertainty for the business. In the past, PIM had been providing on-site, face-to-face appointments, as well as selling supplements from their location in Wayne, PA.
In March 2020, PIM made the decision to go 100% telemedicine. The practice reviewed detailed analyses of patient booking, staffing levels, different marketing plans, and incentives to book an appointment to maintain new patient flow. The analysis and testing of different models allowed PIM to keep the entire staff employed, while increasing revenue. Truly a success in how to pivot in the face of extreme adversity.
Management continues to look at metrics and indicators weekly to identify trends so they can implement changes quickly. They are also looking at new revenue sources such as mentoring other physicians on how to become integrative medical providers.
How SCORE Helped
Dr. Tetlow and her management team came to SCORE for help at the start of the pandemic. She met with John Hess, SCORE mentor in March 2020.
John Hess helped the practice in several ways:
- A sounding board to talk through strategic and tactical ideas and implementation
- Working through a strategic review of the practice’s technical environment, enabling it to streamline process and costs
- Introducing a SCORE HR expert to assist in redesigning the employee performance management process, including reviews and compensation strategy so that the team is poised to grow to the next level
- Connecting the PIM team with a West Chester University student marketing team to develop a marketing and social media strategy, and build social media capability.
John continues to work with PIM on a weekly basis as an advisor. He listens to the current needs of the practice, provides feedback on strategy, and helps in planning for many facets of its operations. “I am very proud to have played a small part in their success. Dr. Tetlow is an inspiring leader who utilizes a collaborative approach with her team. Her capabilities as a physician and as a leader are the reasons PIM has been able to change their business model, and continues to improve the health outcomes of their patients.”
PIM is doing very well now. It has successfully pivoted to telemedicine and revenue is at pre-pandemic levels. The practice is meeting its goals, and in the process of making new goals that will stretch the practice for the next few years.
Dr. Tetlow is proud to have been able to change PIM’s business model and to continue to have a vital business that employs their entire staff. The practice recently received recognition from IFM (Institute for Functional Medicine). In addition, Dr. Tetlow also provides mentorship to at least two or three external clinicians at a time, helping them to set up their own clinics and to practice this type of medicine. One of the mentored physicians was able to open his doors to book patient appointments just four months after beginning the mentoring process.
The outlook is very positive. PIM has been able to survive 2020, implement a new business model, and patients have embraced the change. The goal in 2021 is to grow and evolve to serve more patients, more clinicians, to continue to improve the quality of their lives.
Paying it Forward
Giving back to the community is important to this practice! PIM also continues to offer a pro bono monthly clinician self-care meeting, which has been serving colleagues with 75 monthly meetings over seven years. This one and a half hour (or 90 minute) meeting, which Dr. Tetlow facilitates, includes healthcare workers and integrative professionals. As Dr. Tetlow describes this meeting, “this is a nurturing, safe environment where participants can receive not just give advice, support and information. They come from all over and feel a sense of belonging and community.”
Dr. Tetlow shares some important ‘lessons learned’ for other business owners:
“Work through other people – you cannot do it all yourself”
“Need to trust others, and choose the right people”
“Let them do it their way. It may not be the way I would do it, but if it works for the needs of the business, that’s what is important”
“Communicate what you want, and give regular feedback”
Integrative Medicine (IM) is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.