Putting the "Health" in Health Club: How to Build Medical Partnerships

Commercial Fitness

Putting the "Health" in Health Club: How to Build Medical Partnerships

Health and fitness are two fields that are inextricably intertwined.

While the healthcare industry has demonstrated some reluctance in working with the fitness industry – such as health practitioners being wary of referring patients to clubs – you can still develop an outreach effort to work more closely with the medical community.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at ihrsastore.com.

About the Speakers

Amy Bantham is the Vice President of Health Promotion and Government Relations at the International Health, Racquet and Sports Association (IHRSA).

Chris Purvis is the Co-owner of Peak Performance Physical Therapy & Fitness and Spectrum Fitness & Medical Wellness Center. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy, as well as a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology. He is also a certified personal trainer.

Linda Mitchell is the Director of Public and Community Relations at the Newtown Athletic Club in Pennsylvania. She has 31 years of experience in the fitness industry, and is a recipient of the Julie Maine Award.

Greg Degnan is a doctor and the Medical Director of the ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Plastic Surgery at the UBA School of Medicine.

Physical therapy

The medical industry has a narrow view of the fitness industry. When it comes to patient care, medical professionals value degrees and certificates over training experience. With medical programming, you are dealing with patients, rather than people without major health issues, and they can require more time and effort.

Steps to Building a Successful Medical Partnership

Establish Trust and Credibility

In partnering with a medical professional, trust and credibility are crucial. The first step to gaining trust with a medical professional is to establish positive outreach. Present a fitness package to the medical community that demonstrates a safe-haven environment catering to the specific needs of their patients.

The key is to be up front with the medical practitioner. Securing memberships through your medical programming requires a soft sell that uses your services as the advertisement. Do not push membership sales or try to add them to your prospect list.

Price your wellness programs in a way that encompasses everyone. You can also implement incentives for your wellness programs. For example, if the clients complete the program, refund half of the program's cost, or if they are already members, deduct the program cost from their monthly dues.

Present a Symbiotic Partnership

It is important to identify a practitioner with the same philosophy as your club. A partnership is a two-way street. Refer your members to the practitioner for health assessments or therapy when needed, and they may refer patients to your club.

Be a Valuable Resource

Educate the healthcare practitioner. Explain your health and wellness offerings and how these programs can help their patients.

Demonstrate wellness programming that would benefit the practitioner's patients but that they can't provide themselves. You first need to recognize their goals for their patients. Let them know you share those goals and that your medical programming will help their patients.

Make It Clear You Are Part of the Team

When trying to secure a partnership with a medical professional or establishment, adopt a pharmaceutical model where staff goes “door-to-door. ”

Utilize your connections, such as members in your club who have medical backgrounds, or members with success stories to demonstrate the value of your programming.

One of the best ways to secure a medical partnership is to have the physicians use your club. Offer free guest passes to experience your wellness programs firsthand. This is difficult, but if done correctly, it can result in valuable relationships. It lets the physicians know that you do not expect them to trust their patients to your program until they know exactly what is offered.

Building positive relationships with your community will put you in a good position when partnering with a healthcare establishment, such as a hospital.

Be a valuable part of community events or sponsorships whenever possible. A relational bond with the community will bolster your credibility with healthcare establishments. Make yourself known as a community resource. Demonstrating value to physicians or other healthcare facilities is crucial. A physician will not partner with your club if you don't consistently offer their patients valuable health and wellness programming that achieves results.

Focus on building positive relationships with the medical community, and soon you will gain the trust needed to form a valuable and long-lasting partnership.