Doctors Are Transitioning Faster from Conventional to Integrative Medicine

The information below comes from our Integrative Physician Market Landscape 2017: A RealPersona Segmentation Study of U.S. Integrative MDs and DOs.

We asked 1,133 integrative physicians when they transitioned from a conventional to an integrative medicine practice. We found the time it takes to transition to integrative medicine varies greatly among these physicians, with 18% making the transition right after residency, while 33% waited more than ten years.

When comparing MDs to DOs, doctors of osteopathy are far more likely to transition to integrative medicine immediately after residency. 32% of DOs entered an integrative clinical practice immediately after residency, compared to 18% of the total sample.

One doctor interviewed for this study discussed the challenges of transitioning — “You have to understand that medicine doesn’t allow you to make quick career changes. They’ve made it very difficult to transition from one job to another, very difficult, especially if you want hospital privileges or insurance at all. Choose wisely. When I transitioned from one job to the other ten years ago, my last day was in November, and I took a couple of months off and started in February. You can’t do that now.”

Younger doctors transition more quickly than their more seasoned counterparts

The chart below highlights the relationship between when these doctors transitioned to integrative medicine and how long they have been licensed physicians. The horizontal axis indicates how long these doctors have been practicing medicine. The vertical axis indicates how long after their residency it took for them to transition to an integrative clinical practice.

This chart validates what many in this community have already hypothesized: younger doctors are much more likely to rapidly transition into integrative medicine than their pioneering predecessors. This study only included doctors who self-identified as being involved with integrative medicine, so we can’t judge them relative to their counterparts who may make the transition in the future.

However, for this study, 60% of the doctors in practice for 1-5 years made the transition to integrative medicine immediately after residency, while only 48% of those in practice 6-10 years transitioned immediately. These percentages drop significantly for doctors who have been practicing medicine for more than ten years.

Also of interest is that the majority of doctors who have been practicing more than twenty years took much longer to switch to integrative medicine than their younger peers. This trend of new doctors making a quicker transition to an integrative clinical practice is expected to continue.

Many in this group of quickly transitioning doctors knew all along they wanted to treat their patients with integrative medicine. One study participant who recently completed his residency told us, “I’ve always been interested in combining complementary, alternative, and conventional approaches in clinical practice, because it seems like my path to health has always been utilizing integrated medicine over conventional medicine whenever I have a problem.”

Doctors in practice more than thirty years took by far the longest to become integrative MDs.

How take advantage of the faster transition

Millennials and Generation Xers are transitioning faster. We anticipate this trend continuing; as integrative medicine becomes more widespread, timing of transitions will shorten.

Companies wanting to make a meaningful connection with these physicians first have to understand the barriers to transition. What are they and how can supplement, medical food, diagnostic lab, or medical devices companies remove these? Brands that address these barriers have a greater chance of proving their relevance, and thus gaining loyalty. In our upcoming articles, we will identify the most critical barriers and provide actionable suggestions on how to assist young physicians as they transition from conventional to integrative medicine.

Find out more about our groundbreaking research study and purchase the report here.