Functional-medicine practitioners have described the timeline and matrix as “invaluable” for developing individualized treatment plans. At a glance, these documents enable a physician to see how a patient’s disparate symptoms connect, how they reflect issues within broader physiological systems, and how two patients with the same diagnosis might be served by entirely different treatments.
Meanwhile, managing patient paperwork is time consuming for physicians who are already pressed for time. This motivated a company called LivingMatrix to partner with the Institute for Functional Medicine to develop digital versions of the functional timeline and matrix, designed to “streamline and automate the paper intake process.”
This is how it works: Before their first appointment with a functional-medicine practitioner, patients receive an invitation to fill out an online health questionnaire. The cloud-based software then automatically maps the information into the timeline and matrix. This enables the doctor to review the patient’s answers and meet him at the first appointment with the beginnings of fully populated documents in hand, prepared to dive deeper into his health issues and discuss individualized treatment approaches.
Priya Kamani, MD, is the CEO and founder of LivingMatrix. She was motivated to make the tools more widely available to other physicians after her first encounters with functional medicine as a patient.
“I have had my own fairly significant health issues and, in spite of being a physician myself, was resigned to suffer through them — until I started working with functional-medicine practitioners,” she explains.
“Seeing the amazing results led me to learn more about functional medicine. During the IFM training I was able to appreciate the power of the tools and was inspired to help take them to the next level. By digitizing them, practitioners are able to save time and help more patients.”
The digital version of the functional-medicine matrix won’t replace the initial interview — the physician will still need to ask follow-up questions to get a full picture of the factors playing into the patient’s health struggles — but it will allow doctor and patient to hit the ground running rather than starting cold at their first appointment. And if more patients with health struggles are being treated as whole persons by functional practitioners, rather than being reduced to their symptoms and diagnoses, that could make a lot of people feel a whole lot better.
Here’s an example of what a populated timeline and populated matrix looks like on LivingMatrix.com:
For more on the tools used by progressive practitioners, see “The Functional-Medicine Matrix” in our October 2015 issue.