Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast! On this episode, James sits down with Brad Dyer, DO, a functional medicine practitioner from Kansas City. A former hospitalist, Brad has been practicing functional integrative medicine for a few years, but is making a big impact in his community. He talks about his journey to functional medicine, how he stays inspired and motivated in this field of medicine, and how he is integrating group visit care in diabetes treatment. There is so much to learn from this episode—enjoy! Highlights include:

  • How Brad found functional medicine and knew he wanted to start practicing this way
  • The turning point that helped him solidify his practice model and grow revenue
  • The gamechanger that turned his practice marketing strategy into a major success
  • And so much more!

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

James Maskell: Hello, and welcome to the podcast today. We continue our Practice Marketing Series with Dr. Brad Dyer. He is a DO from Kansas City who has been delivering functional integrative medicine for a few years. You will find his story absolutely fascinating. There’s so much gold in here for any practitioner that is ready to practice a kind of medicine that’s in integrity with the kind of change they want to be in the world. So many things to learn from Dr. Dyer’s journey. He is now helping people with diabetes in groups. So much good stuff in here. Thanks so much for tuning in and enjoy.

So a warm welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast, Dr. Brad Dyer, welcome, Doc.

Brad Dyer: Thanks, James. Thanks for having me. This is somewhat of a dream come true for me.

James Maskell: I’m really excited to have you here on the podcast. I know we’ve been in touch for six years, and it’s been amazing to watch you build and grow your practice and see all the things that have happened for you here. So why don’t we just start at the beginning? I mean, this podcast is on practice marketing, but really the context is the creation of successful practices helping reverse chronic illness through functional integrative medicine. So where did the spark for the integrative and functional medicine come from and what was the beginning for you?

Brad Dyer: So the beginning for me…I got interested in medicine with fitness and nutrition. I was a business major and I took an anatomy class and fell in love with the human body and was always interested in natural medicine and the power of the human body. But I ended up doing a dual residency in internal medicine and psychiatry, and then went on to work as a hospitalist. And it didn’t take long as working as a hospitalist to see, I felt like I was on the wrong end of things. I was dealing with people with acute exacerbations of chronic disease, and we were getting them well enough to get out of the hospital, and then they would go back to their primary care and then that’s really where it ended for me.

I was seeing a lot of patients who were following traditional guidelines and doing what their doctors told them to on a lot of levels and taking the meds, but then still, they were still ending up in the hospital and I knew there had to be a better way of doing things. I started doing some research and I originally found Dr. Andrew Weil’s Integrative Medicine program. And so I applied for that, enrolled in that, and at this point, I hadn’t really heard the word “functional medicine” yet.

So I started doing that program and then just following social media, I had discovered you actually and had really started to see what you guys were doing, watching a little bit of the Functional Forums, but then, gosh, I don’t know, this may have been five years ago. The first Evolution of Medicine Summit came out and that—

James Maskell: That was September 2014.

Brad Dyer: Oh, gosh. Time goes by so fast, but that…I was driving to meet my dad to go bird hunting, which is something we hadn’t done since we were kids and it was a four-hour drive. And I was in utter awe of just listening to all of those things because I was just going on and on. It just opened my mind and I had thought, this is what I want to do. This is how I want to practice medicine. Then I just became a devote follower of you guys and everything that you are putting out there. And it was clearly God’s and the universe’s plan for me because things were just falling into place at the right time.

I was learning enough to where I knew it was philosophically difficult to continue to practice in the way that I was doing. But luckily as a hospitalist, I worked seven days on and seven days off so I had those seven days off to just really dive into my integrative and functional training and figure out what do I need to do to open a clinic. I am by no means a business-savvy guy. Maybe the opposite of that, if you will. But I knew it had to be done. This space, my original space just fell into my lap and it was what I had dreamed of my functional medicine practice would be like. So I ended up signing a lease and then I was like, oh my goodness, I have to start a medical practice.

I had reached out to you and Gabe and had started to…I would Google “functional medicine Denver” and “functional medicine Chicago” or whatever and see what their websites looked like and talked to those doctors. It’s mind-blowing to me. It has really opened my mind to things like the law of attraction of how all that has fallen into place. It was rough in the beginning. It was hard trying to figure all that out, but in the last couple years, even in the last couple of months, it’s amazing how so many dreams are being realized for me. So many things are falling into a place. I have a new facility, and we’re doing group visits, and I know other things that we’ll get into today.

James Maskell: Yeah, I’d love to get into that. Just going back to the Evolution of Medicine Summit. At that moment, we didn’t really have a business. We had this Functional Forum show. There had been one summit, as far as I’d seen, which is the Gluten Summit. And even just looking back, I know on the Sunday, we had the Practitioner Day, and we had people like Jeff Bland who spoke about the micropractice and Shilpa who spoke about the group visits. It’s interesting to see just how consistent we’ve been out over those six years because here we are six years later and ultimately we’ve seen a lot of doctors start to build practices over the last six years and it’s amazing what can happen in that period of time.

I really reflect on the fact that that was a…it was what I’d hoped, which was a great entry point for doctors to be like, oh, okay, I could see doing this and this makes a lot of sense and I didn’t know that these mentors were even out there available. Actually both Jeff and Shilpa were both Weil graduates as well so that was a nice connection there. So yeah, take us through the first bits of implementing. What were the things that you started with first and what were some victories and things that went wrong along the way?

Brad Dyer: I really wanted to try to figure out my practice model and you guys had interviewed Tom Blue a couple times back around then with IFM, and he was talking a lot about the benefits of the membership-type model. And when I really looked at it, I decided, okay, that’s what I’m going to do. But like so many other people I know that I’ve talked to over the years is, as doctors in a conventional model, we have a hard time putting a value on our knowledge and our care and what we can do.

I was significantly undercharging, and I was having a hard time just making ends meet, honestly, because I didn’t know what my time was worth and what our knowledge is worth, or really the value that this membership brought to people and how life-changing it can be compared to something where they may spend hundreds or thousands of dollars more in conventional medicine and just not get the outcomes that we were getting. That was a big learning thing for me.

It didn’t take long to realize that I needed a health coach. That was huge. Bringing on that health coach made a significant difference because it allowed me to see more people and not have to be that person for everyone. It was more of a team approach. It was two different people looking at things. It was more touchpoints and it was more economical for a health coach to do a lot of those things as opposed to my time as a physician. So that was a huge thing.

Just working with you guys and learning about Active Campaign and all that that has to offer and email nurturing sequences that I learned through the EvoMed program over the years. Those have been priceless really, and to help plug up holes and people that were falling between the cracks, just using email automation and that was amazing. It’s just crazy how everything has just grown and then gradually becoming more efficient.

James Maskell: I know we’ve spoken a bunch of times because you were bringing together the Kansas City community with the meetups, and I want to get into some of the marketing stuff next, but I know that that really called to you as a leader to want to get involved in that. What was that experience like for you. What were the highs and lows of bringing together the Kansas City integrative and functional community?

Brad Dyer: That was awesome. It really was. I’m a big believer in a rising tide lifts all ships and I’ve always been a social person. I always love coordinating social events and parties. That’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed doing. So when I found how big the network was in Kansas City, it’s actually fairly big, maybe not so much medical doctors, but as far as acupuncturist and massage therapist and health coaching and even functional medicine docs and naturopaths and chiropractors, when we started getting those people in a room together and then not only did I realize they were there, but they realized they were there.

The thing about functional medicine or integrative medicine, holistic medicine is sometimes people tend to just do their own thing. They may be a little bit afraid to let people know that they’re out there, and they don’t know what other people are going to think or what other medical professionals are going to think. And so when we were getting doctors together with all the other providers, people were just so just excited about that. And so that was some of the most rewarding things.

Then the content was awesome. It was all stuff that we all needed to hear, that everyone was hungry for and the discussions that we would have afterwards. There was the ups and downs like you said. Sometimes you would work really hard and you’d be super excited and then three people would show up but that’s true for any time you try to coordinate something I have learned in the wellness space. But then there are times where we’d have, I think the most we ever had was 41 or something like that.

It was a super cool experience and I’ve gotten away from it a little bit just with building a new location and growing my practice. But now I’m super excited because we do have a beautiful new space with a big open area where we can have group visits. I don’t have to rent out a place and all that. And just what you guys have coming up is extremely timely, extremely important. So we’re really looking forward to really bringing that back and building the community even bigger than we did before because our reach is bigger. Our social network is bigger. Our reach is bigger. Even our reputation has grown, and so I’m really looking forward to growing those community groups again.

James Maskell: Well, just as a bit of a tip on that, for people who listen to the podcast. Later this year, we are going to roll out some new efforts to make it even easier for practitioners to be together, to connect locally and to have a structure, to be in touch with each other in between meetups. So I really look forward to seeing what happens in Kansas City.

Actually, one of my regrets from the last few years is that the one time I came to Kansas City, I missed your meetup by a day or half a day, or I got there the morning and it was the night before or something. I remember seeing pictures of it and thinking it looked like a really cool venue. I’m sure I’ll get back to that at some point, for sure.

Let’s just dive into things that you’ve learned that other practitioners need to know. And one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on is your name came up, actually, when we were talking. I was talking with Uli in one of the previous sessions, because ultimately, one of the things that happens when you learn how to do functional integrative medicine, is that there’s a lot of different people that you can help. And that can be really gratifying as a practitioner because you can reverse all kinds of chronic illnesses in different ways, but it could also make it hard to market your practice. And that’s really what this series is about.

So I’d love to just dive into that with you, because ultimately what I think I’ve seen from you and following you online is that you’ve hit…you’re in the zone now in a way that maybe you weren’t with your practice marketing. And I just love for you to share with our community what that’s been like and what that transition has been like, and what made you decide to go in this direction.

Brad Dyer: Yeah. Really what has made a huge difference, honestly, in streamlining my marketing has been niching down. All of us are afraid to do that in the beginning. And maybe that’s not a good idea to niche in the beginning. I don’t know for sure. I was like anyone who wants to come, come on, I need patients. But what I had found was there are certain things that I’m passionate about more than others. There are certain things that I’m better at and I really enjoy learning about certain things. And there are certain topics that really fire me up.

When I decided, okay, I’m going to focus on diabetes and metabolic health, which is what we niched in, then I’m like, wow, I can focus my marketing on this area. I can focus my education on this area. I can train my team up really well on this area, and I could do a lot of email nurturing sequences and Facebook ads and retargeting sequences and all these things that I’ve learned from you guys and others throughout the industry that has made a really big difference. And so niching has been a very wise decision.

People had told me for a couple of years that trust me, you’re going to love it. And I was nervous. I was skeptical, but that’s been huge. Just to see the way that you can reach certain audiences on Facebook and Instagram and things like that when you start to niche down and target, it’s been awesome. It’s been a game-changer for us.

James Maskell: So take us through because I know you’ve had some iterations of trying to go after a niche market, realizing the patient population that were coming in were a little bit different than you wanted or that you’d expected and then some of the adjustments you made along the way to try and get more people that you knew you could really help.

Brad Dyer: That was interesting. What you’re referring to there is, before, when people would go through my functional medicine sales funnel, a lot of those people knew about functional medicine. They were coming to me through ways where they were somewhat functional medicine savvy and for the most part, not everyone, but for the most part. And when I would do 20-minute consult with those, we do free 20-minute consults, I had had certain videos that we’d made and nurturing sequences, and they had an idea what to expect and that this is an investment and things like that.

When I started niching originally with diabetes, it grew super-fast but what I had realized was a big portion of those people, they didn’t really know what functional medicine was. They didn’t really know as much about lifestyle medicine. They just knew that they had diabetes, or they were given a recent diagnosis of diabetes. We created just an e-book guide that got significant traction on opening people’s minds. But what I found was those people took a lot more education and a higher percentage of them wasn’t ready.

So we’ve changed how that we’re doing our target marketing as far as focusing on certain zip codes within my area for local things and levels of education, doing more in-depth, explanatory nurturing sequences for email and video. And even that small change has made a big difference and I have a new front office concierge and I’ve trained her too, instead of people going directly from that funnel to a 20-minute consult with me, they fill out an application.

She talks with them and then educates with them and then sees, okay, we have a diabetes group program that we’re just over the moon excited about. So maybe they’re better for the diabetes group program. Maybe they’re better for our six-month membership or maybe it’s not a good fit right now at this time. And so she’s been very helpful and helping figure out what the next step is. And if they are a good candidate, and they need just to learn a little bit more, then they get on the phone with me, and we go from there.

James Maskell: Absolutely. I think what we’ve seen time and time again, is that you have to build the system and then you test and you see what’s working and then you adjust from that. And coming up in this series, we’re going to be talking about all kinds of innovations, things like new patient orientations, other things that lots of practitioners are doing in the space to try and fill that knowledge gap because obviously there’s plenty of people in Kansas City with type 2 diabetes for you to work with. So it’s just about getting the right people in that you know that you can help.

Let’s talk a little bit more about your group program, because I know obviously once you start bringing in a lot of people that have diabetes and you have a solution, if you only have an intense care offering and you can see with type 2 diabetes, it might need a six-month reverse over six months with a whole functional medicine workup or it might just be some simple lifestyle changes that could move the needle with that kind of patient. Obviously you have to see what kind of complexity of the cases, but why did you decide to do the group and how’s it going? And what does that model look like and what are your hopes for that in the future?

Brad Dyer: As you know I’ve wanted to start group visits for a year at least. I’ve been bugging you about it from time to time. I tell you one of the big things that just got me over the edge was your book, The Community Cure. That really gave me the oomph that I needed and the programs that you had done, the five-day group restart and those kind of things, I just decided now’s the time. And I’ll tell you the other big thing, honestly, too, is COVID. We were in the process of developing that and it was moving forward but when COVID hit, we all had to pivot, and so we needed to start making things…what can we do virtually to help people?

Although our diabetes program was designed to be in-person and it still will, we had to get a virtual one out there, and so we just started really working hard on building that out. Marketing that a little bit. It’s exactly like you said. When not only can I help more people by doing group visits, but just to see the people help themselves. That’s, what’s just been the most rewarding thing in my professional career honestly, has been starting these group visits, and we’re only six weeks into them and it’s been mind-blowing. Our first group visit only had three people because I didn’t…it was the whole rush with COVID and I didn’t market it very much, but then our second group sold out. I wanted to cap it at 10, and we ended up with 13 because people are just really wanting to get in and just to see people help each other.

We have a private Facebook group that only members can be in there and people are sharing articles and people are posting, I’m struggling with this. And someone else is jumping in and saying, you got this. It gives me goosebumps just to see that and something like diabetes and metabolic disease, then you’re really getting into things like food addiction and just a lot of those kind of concepts that so many people struggle with that I can sit there and talk all day long and it’s meaningful and it’s helpful, but I really see the light go off in their eyes and in their hearts when the person next to them either on the Zoom screen or in-person is saying, hey, I dealt with this and this is what I found and it’s made such a big difference in my life. And then they come back a couple days later and say, oh my God, you’re right. Thank you.

So it’s the power of community, which you guys have been saying for a while and gosh, man, it’s true more than ever right now I think. It’s interesting. We had decided to niche on diabetes, gosh, six months or so ago, but with everything with COVID, with the realization that look it’s obesity, it’s hypertension, it’s diabetes, that’s that trifecta that was causing negative outcomes. So I really think that’s opened people’s eyes to the importance of metabolic health and immune health and just making healthy decisions and that by lowering your insulin resistance, by losing weight, by meditating, by exercising, by prioritizing sleep and eating a whole food type diet that you’re going to improve your immunity, reduce your risk of not just a bad outcome from COVID or whatever the next virus might be that comes along, but lowering your risk of heart attack and lowering your risk of stroke.

That’s one big reason why I chose diabetes is diabetes is the leading cause of dialysis in the United States. It’s the leading cause of non-traumatic amputation. It’s the leading cause of blindness. It’s a major contributor to heart attacks and conventional medicine, they don’t go about it the right way. Saying you should have 40 to 60 grams of carbs with every meal is just not right. Focusing primarily on specific drugs and insulin for a lifestyle-related condition is just not right. So I just became extremely passionate about helping people understand how to take ownership of their own health because when you do it that way, that’s when you lower the incidence of dialysis. That’s when you lower heart attacks and people get to keep their toes and their feet and all of those sorts of things.

I saw time and time again in the hospital as a hospitalist telling a patient, I know you’ve been following the guidelines, but I’m sorry, my friend, it’s time for dialysis or that infection’s not going to heal, we have no choice, but to cut off your foot. And I’ve told, I don’t know how many people that, and this has just given me a completely different way to help people just take ownership, take control of their health. We call the program Empowerment Over Diabetes, and I’m a big believer in the word “empowerment.” A lot of conventional care to some degree is disempowering. So we really want to help people understand that the power that they have, that their day-to-day choices make a huge difference in their outcomes when it comes to weight, diabetes or anything for that matter.

James Maskell: I love that, Brad. Well said by the way because I feel like what a transformation from being in the hospital, feeling like you want to do it differently and now being able to look back and go, yeah look, I did it. Now I’m doing it. Now I’m going upstream. Now I’m empowering people to reverse their diabetes. You talk about physician burnout. You talk about the moral injury of being a physician and realizing you’re not really helping. In the same way that you’re empowering those patients, you’ve empowered yourself to be the doctor that you wanted to be to solve the problem. And I would imagine that the lessons that you’re learning here in this group program are going to help you maybe continue to find ways to go after more people in Kansas City and beyond that desperately need this help.

Brad Dyer: Oh, absolutely. It’s funny in, in this particular group, only less than half the people are actually type 2 diabetics. There’s some people with prediabetes. Some people that they don’t know they have prediabetes, I bet. They were waiting for some of their labs to come back. I bet you that they do, but it’s more people just with obesity and metabolic syndrome. There’s people who are really hungry from that regard too as well. The sky is the limit.

Once we feel comfortable with these groups, another thing that had came to mind is and you and I talked about this a little bit is groups are so scalable and this would be something where once we feel comfortable, and we’re efficient, and we’re settled in with that there are some big employers in town where you could say look, your diabetic patients are costing you a ton of money in your self-funded insurance. They’re having missed days of work and emergency room visits and big hospitalizations and expensive drugs.

Why not send them through our program, and we can make them happier. We can make them more productive. We can make them have less days of missed work. And then hopefully you’re not going to cover the cost of dialysis someday or a stent being put in or surgery to have a foot cut off. I see a lot of potential there. That’s a business-oriented thing and that’s never been my specialty, but I see where that could be very powerful and very beneficial. And that’s where I may go out of my comfort zone as this goes on and start to look at doing something like that.

James Maskell: Yeah. Well, all of that is possible. One of the things I found from Evolution of Medicine, we did a few Functional Forums, and we thought, okay, well this is possible. And then we did the summit, and then we saw, okay, we really need to get doctors to make the shift. So we made the Accelerator and then it was like, okay, now there’s enough functional medicine doctors. What could we do next?

And each time you get to that next level, you start to see with the capacity you’ve already built you can actually go and do something more scalable. More effective. And the biggest thing is yeah, tracking those outcomes, making sure that you can prove that your program does what you say it does. Those kinds of conversations will open up a lot and look, I just want to acknowledge you for one, doing it all and leading through the process and being a great example of what’s possible.

I just see the smile in your face and see that it’s a great example for other doctors who may feel trodden down and also for every other doctor that’s coming behind you. I see this COVID incident, I think really show doctors finally that the system doesn’t have your best interests at heart and you may have to leave the system to do rewarding work. Now I feel like doctors like yourself that have taken this first iteration of a journey through our EvoMed resources and this community can be a leader for the next generation of doctors that are coming through that see your example and want to follow it and want to really make a difference.

So thank you for all of the implementation that you’ve done. I know there’s a lot of credit to go to other people, like Uli and Sachin and other people in the community that are obviously thinking about it the same way that we’re thinking, which is we’ve got to get people, we’ve got to reverse chronic disease at scale and move it. So thank you for all the efforts. I still owe you that trip to Kansas City. And really appreciate you coming to be here on the podcast.

Brad Dyer: Yeah, of course, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. One other thing I’ll say to you, I meant to mention is you mentioned physician burnout and the same can be true in functional medicine too, as well sometimes where it feels like everything that you do is…you can only help so many people on one-on-one and everything that you do is reliant on you. And I was by no means burnt-out, but just bringing on groups and starting doing the group visit that is just BAM. That has just fueled a whole other set of passions and I can see where this is even more sustainable and growable, and I’m reaching more people. And I do know other docs too, that have been even a little bit burnt-out from a functional medicine side and have found groups very refreshing in that regard too.

James Maskell: Absolutely. All right. Cool. Well, look, we’ve got a lot of good stuff in front of us. Amazing to have allies all around the country who are living their passion, doing great work and ready to take the next step. If you want to check out Dr. Dyer’s practice, it’s premierintegrativehealthkc.com. You can check out his website and for more information about anything to do with group visits, we have the Group Visit Toolkits from our sponsor the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. Check them out.

Thanks so much for tuning into this episode of the podcast. This has been our practice marketing series with Dr. Brad Dyer. I’m your host, James Maskell, and we’ll see you next time.

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