This Functional Medicine Clinic is Changing Healthcare in Los Angeles

parsley health

Parsley Health has reimagined healthcare for the 21st century, turning the growing field of functional medicine into a well-oiled (and extremely pleasant) health machine.

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, instead of merely treating symptoms, and today, it’s the fastest growing field in primary care.

Almost half of all American adults today have at least one chronic illness according to the CDC, and many can be treated with simple changes to lifestyle.

“This field of functional medicine says, ‘We don’t want to just Band-Aid problems with a drug, and we also don’t want to just Band-Aid problems with an herb,” Parsley Health founder Robin Berzin, MD explains. “We want to get to the root cause of problems, and so functional medicine is the medicine of why.”

But this “medicine of why” usually demands a hefty fee. Berzin recalls that when she was working at a more traditional functional medicine practice, she couldn’t even afford her own services.

She decided to make a change – not just to prices, but to the whole business model of functional medicine. Parsley Health was born.

What is Parsley Health?

Today, Parsley Health is a one-stop locale for functional medicine, built on a completely new model: instead of hundred (or thousand) dollar an hour doctor visits, members pay $149/month for unlimited contact with a healthcare professional.

This completely changes the way that medical needs are met.

“We needed to get away from fee for service,” explains Berzin. “You shouldn’t pay me to see me for more hours; you should pay to get better.”

With this model, it’s in the best interest of Parsley Health to discover and solve a patient’s problem as quickly as possible, whether that means extensive testing or a simple text message.

We sat down with Berzin and discovered the great ways that Parsley Health can teach us some new ways to approach medicine and health.

Doctor’s visits don’t have to be unpleasant.

Parsley Health doesn’t work like a traditional doctor’s office, and it also doesn’t feel like a traditional doctor’s office. Parsley Health’s offices are located in a coworking space called WeWork; the Los Angeles office is in hip Playa Vista. Located not far from Snapchat and Google, Parsley Health, too, is at the forefront of all that tech has to offer.

This was a major overhaul from more traditional experiences that was extremely important to Berzin.

“I looked around, and I said, ‘OK, these visits are $1000 an hour, no one is using data, no one is using technology, everyone’s writing things down on paper.” Instead, Berzin decided to use tech to make the medical experience more pleasant.

Appointments are scheduled via an online interface, and all of a patient’s test results and records are easily available for download.

But tech isn’t the only ways that Parsley Health is making the medical experience better. Berzin noted that many people don’t even have a primary care physician anymore, just because spending ten minutes with someone who barely knows you once a year isn’t worth the price.

Instead, with Parsley Health, patients get unlimited access, not only to their physician, but to health coaches, an extra service that usually costs an extra $100 an hour more.

“I just include it unlimited in the membership fee and pay our health coaches a salary,” Berzin explains. “We need coaches – there’s data that shows that when people work with coaches, they achieve their goals twice as often.”

This sort of patient-focused care is made possible by the very business model upon which Parsley Health was developed.

“We win if you get better,” Berzin says. Knowing that when you walk into the doctor’s office, your physician isn’t just going to prescribe you something to deal with your symptoms, but is actually going to help you find out what’s going on makes going to the doctor less confrontational and more pleasant.

Functional medicine and conventional medicine are not enemies.

While it might seem like functional medicine and conventional medicine can’t work together, Berzin sees things a bit differently. After all, while Berzin always knew that she wanted to practice holistic medicine, she has a conventional background, with medical training from Columbia University and Mount Sinai Hospital.

That said, she does have a bit of a bone to pick with the way that many conventional methods look at disease. “I was basically being taught to keep people alive, and while not dying is awesome, and we definitely want to keep people from dying, not dying and thriving are two very different things,” Berzin explains.

This is why she believes that functional medicine should be the base of your primary care, helping to get to the root of complex, chronic illnesses.

“Most people don’t need medicine,” she explains, citing acne, eczema, and digestive troubles as just some of many symptoms of a bigger problem that people treat with drugs for years. That said, particularly as a trained physician, Berzin knows when to call in the experts.

“There is certainly a role for specialists,” she says, citing a 24-year-old patient she saw complaining of chest pains who, when sent to a specialist, learned that she had Hodgkins lymphoma.

“We’re very much a friend to conventional medicine,” she says. “We’re not separate from it, and we’re not against it. It’s a part of it, but we help you avoid a lot of unnecessary drugs and procedures because we help to get to the real cause.”

Treating your whole body is the best way to stay healthy.

It took a personal experience for Berzin to understand just how important holistic medicine was.

“I had been living with a concrete wall between my head and my body,” she says, of a time just ten years ago. “That disconnect was really pervasive, and it was probably the reason that so many people were taking poor care of themselves.”

Berzin says that many of her patients come in without any particular complaints and slowly realize that things that they had been dealing with their whole lives – symptoms like gas, bloating, acne, or irregular periods, can point to issues that can be fixed.

“They’re not sick, but they have things going on, and so then we summarize all of that and give you a plan.”

These plans cover everything from nutrition to dietary supplements to movement to medication to relaxation to lifestyle. All of these components, combined, help people to get away from surviving and really begin thriving.

Of course, it takes time. “Functional medicine is a process of kind of peeling apart the onion,” Berzin says. “Each time we work with you, we get to know you a little better.”

That, if nothing else, is a major change to working most conventional physicians – at Parsley Health, your doctor knows everything about you, and links can be drawn between things you never would have thought to connect on your own.

After quite a bit of success in New York, Parsley Health is finally coming to Los Angeles.

For the launch, Parsley Health is offering a 40 percent reduced package until the end of August. These founding members will have access to the full Parsley Health package for just $1000.

Parsley Health will create a tailor-made health plan just for you, improving your vitality and helping you live life to the fullest – and healthiest.

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Image care of Parsley Health

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco