Understanding The Functional Medicine Timeline


One of the drawbacks of starting out fresh with a new doctor or health practitioner is the task of filling out reams of medical history paperwork that is always required prior to the initial visit. Many of you can easily recall sitting in a crowded office lobby, attempting to balance a clipboard on our lap while perusing a checklist containing dozens of potential former ailments, surgeries and symptoms on a questionnaire that is roughly the size of a small novella.

Years ago, doctors could take the time to sit with their new patients and take a detailed medical history. But those days are gone. Today, if the new patient is lucky, the doctor or a nurse practitioner might skim over the completed history, maybe ask a few additional questions and then put the document away, never to be reviewed again.

Yet an accurate, concise patient history is vital to uncovering the cause of a patient’s issue. At Restoration Healthcare, we employ the Functional Medicine Timeline — a single page that serves as an important diagnostic tool in discovering the underlying root cause of a chronic illness.

Functional Medicine Timeline

This 8.5-by-11-inch piece of paper is a basic and essential tool that enables clinicians like our medical director, Dr. Sunny Raleigh, to more accurately assess a detailed patient history and begin down the road to finding the root cause of what ails a patient.

The Functional Medicine Timeline is used to bring your health story to life. It enables our Functional Medicine practice to recognize and identify key triggers or events, shining the light on things that might be considered predispositions or patterns that can manifest later in life.

The Functional Medicine Timeline — which was first suggested by Dr. Sidney Barker of Sag Harbor, NY, and created by the Institute for Functional Medicine under the leadership of Dr. David Jones in 2010 — features four distinct yet collaborative attributes:

  • It quickly establishes a patient’s complete health history
  • Use of the Timeline identifies — and then helps the functional medicine doctor addresses — both lifestyle and environmental factors
  • It creates a biological matrix framework that organizes clinical imbalances, separated by underlying causes
  • And it establishes a therapeutic partnership between us as medical practitioners and you as our patient

The key to the timeline’s success is chronology. When organized in an orderly fashion — from preconception to the present moment — Dr. Raleigh can observe a patient’s medical history among a variety of life events and environmental encounters, which can jump right off the page as a cause-effect relationship. Without this step-by-step chronology, such incidents can easily be overlooked or dismissed.

Taking what appears on the surface to be “busy paperwork” and coming up with an accurate diagnosis of a health issue is the paradox of this procedure. At Restoration Healthcare, we take the time to listen to our patients, scheduling initial appointments that aren’t governed by a stopwatch or a clock. What often emerges are patterns and life events that we otherwise would not have seen.

It is because of the thorough history-taking exercise afforded by the Functional Medicine Timeline that the doctor and the patient — in harmony — often discover connections that can lead to a diagnosis, which of course, can lead to a successful therapeutic solution.