Medical Reimbursement for Training With MedFit Founder Lisa Dougherty

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
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In this episode of the “NASM-CPT Podcast,” host Rick Richey is joined by featured guest, MedFit Founder, Lisa Dougherty. Lisa is the founder of three separate but linked non-for-profit fitness companies. The MedFit Network provides a list of qualified Medical Fitness Trainers all over the country to promote their services to those in need.

The MedFit Education offers medical fitness specializations to fitness professionals to be able to work with those that have heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Finally, MedFit Care is the ability for your clients to get a medical fitness prescription to either be able to write off personal training on their taxes or to use a Health Spending Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to use pre-taxed dollars on personal training services. Join the MedFit Network today and save 40% on your first year's annual membership.

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About The Guest: 

Lisa Dougherty: Lisa is the founder of three separate but linked non-for-profit fitness companies. The MedFit Network provides a list of qualified Medical Fitness Trainers all over the country to promote their services to those in need.

Video and Audio Embeds




**This transcript is auto-generated using AI and may have typographical errors present within the script. For every error within the transcript, we will be making our copy editor do 10 burpees. 

Rick Richey 0:17

Hey y'all, and welcome to the NASM CPT podcast. My name is Rick Richey. And today I got a guest with me, the guest whom I've known for several years now. She is going to be talking to us about reimbursement, the ability for your clients that have medically necessary exercise prescription to be reimbursed for your services.

So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Lisa, Dougherty. Hi, Lisa,

Lisa Dougherty 0:48

Thanks for having me on your podcast today.

Rick Richey 0:50

I'm so happy to have you. So introduce yourself to the audience who you are your background, med fits all the med fits, and then we'll highlight each one and then we're going to get into one of them in particular.

Lisa 1:05

Great. Well, thank you, I've been a personal trainer for 23 years. My change careers in my 30s I'm 58 now went back to school at UC Irvine, and went through a two year fitness instructor program.

And what was really cool about it, it was taught at a teaching medical university. So I was immersed in medicine, learning fitness. My dad was battling his second cancer.

And I was inspired to get into fitness to help people and you know, cancer survivors was my focus. After I graduated from college, I went on to take a bunch of chronic disease and exercise specialist courses from a company that's no longer in existence. But I went through all 15 programs, and became a chronic disease and exercise specialist 20 years ago. And so my focus at the time was special populations, even though I think today Healthy People are the special populations. But that was my focus back then.

And I started Whole Body Fitness. And this was before there was an Internet and Internet came out. I had a strong business background and my website if you Google diabetes and exercise cancer and exercise, I was number one on Google, there was no WebMD there was no John Hopkins University. It was whole body fitness years ago. So I started getting inquiries from all over the United States to my website. You know, my mom's a cancer survivor.

Do you know of anybody? My daughter has type one diabetes, we live in Washington, DC, do you know of anybody? And our industry wasn't of such were sure I knew a trainer in Washington DC are one in Seattle that had special education. And was you know, I could refer these people. So I used to call the company that I had had taken all these courses from and I'd say,

Hey, did you sell a diabetes course or a cancer course I have a lead for the trainer. And I did that for about five years. And they'd laughed when I called. And I said this isn't funny to all these trainers to build websites, or to put on their website that they've taken this education because no one's finding them. Everyone's emailing, you know, whole body fitness.

So I'm a problem solver. I always have been. And I saw that we needed a registry of trainers or studios or clubs, anybody who had any services or programs for, you know, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, MS, Parkinson's, menopause, Parkinson's. And so I went back to UC Irvine and worked with the business school there to do a business plan for what was the medfit network that was the first company I founded in 2013. And worked with the computer science department at UC Irvine. This was all a volunteer driven project.

At the time, I didn't do this project to make any money. I did it because I saw a problem and I wanted to solve it. So we launched the medfit network in 2013. And SM was one of our supporters. I partnered with 100 companies. You were on our board at the time. If you remember, you're one of our two. I started this. And so we partnered with 100 companies in the fitness industry.

And I told them, you know, I'll give everybody free advertising. I don't have any traffic yet. But can you send an email out to everybody that you educate?
You know, buys your fitness products, like perform better power systems takes your magazine like PFP professional, and everybody thought, Wow, what a great idea. Thanks for doing this for our industry. And over a three year period, we grew the registry to about 30,000 professionals and not just fitness even though that was my market.

You know, we had chiropractors, dieticians, massage therapist, early 2016 I was featured in the Huffington Post. Why you should know Lisa Doherty in medical fitness. And my dad was on his fourth cancer at the time. And I was really inspired by him to to create this registry.

And he kept saying, oh, one day, you're gonna be on 2020 or 60 minutes for, for doing this. And I told him, I don't want to be on TV. I'm shy. But anyways, a week after my dad died in 2016, I got an email from the White House. And I was acknowledged as a champion of change finalist by the Obama administration for this.

Lisa 5:27

And I wish it came a week earlier. So my dad could have seen it, because I think that was better than on 60 minutes. But anyways, it's very bittersweet. And getting that acknowledgement from the White House brought a lot of attention to the project, as you can imagine. Yeah. And what I discovered while growing this project was there wasn't enough educated fitness professionals to serve a really have a network effect in all 50 states.

And those of us on it, me included, there was no relevant continued education, all those courses I took 17 years ago, there was no Con Ed on any of them, you know, I became a Fibromyalgia exercise specialist. And that was it.

So I saw another problem. And I've been acting like a not for profit the whole time. So I founded a The not for profit, medfit Education Foundation. That was in 2017. And the first thing we did was weekly webinars and on a bunch of topics that the fitness industry was looking at, you know, all the medical conditions I mentioned earlier, but we also had one, you know, got health and, you know, sleep and CBD. Just really interesting topics in this medical fitness space.

And so we're five years into doing webinars, they're free for anybody that's part of this network. I started conferences, I did eight conferences. In two years, we called it the medical fitness tour, kind of like a rock star tour coming to a city near you, the Avengers especial popular.

And so we traveled from Seattle to Chicago to San Francisco. And at the end of 2019, I told my team because I'm still running a personal training business. I've donated my time to this project, as you know, the whole time. And I said to my team, I don't want to do any conferences in 2020. I'm burned out. And they're like, Well, what are we going to do if we don't do conferences and you know, COVID hit.

Lisa 7:33

And it was very fortunate, there were no conferences that I had no conferences scheduled. And so what did I wanted to do, I wanted to recreate all those courses I took 20 years ago, and make them better. Make them for the times and the times being, you know, we're going to do virtual training, outdoor programming telehealth.

So I spent 2020. And by the way, I want to mention that my personal training clients have supported this project, and they have donated $800,000 so far to my foundation to make everything that I'm talking about today possible, including Medicare that we're going to be talking about. Right now. They just they believe in what I'm doing. And it's just amazing that people will do that.

But anyway, so I spent 2020 seeking out subject matter experts, and you were one for diabetes. You know, some of the courses it was really easy. I Christine Conte has rheumatoid arthritis. David Lyons had Ms.

So some of the authors it was very easy for me to pick. But then there were some like you know, who's going to cover Alzheimer's? No one in the fitness industry has Alzheimer's. So I reached out to Jonathan Ross, who does fun intensity.

Lisa Dougherty 8:50

So I asked him if he'd cover Alzheimer's. So anyways, I found 30 plus people to be subject matter experts to create courses. And we've spent the last two years launching them, I think 25 of 30 are done. They range anywhere from 10 to 20 hours. They cover, you know, progression, regression, Pharmaceutical Management, and knee surgeries.

Rick Richey 9:18

I just want to point out real quickly, so you said 10 to 20 hours because most of them were 10. But mine was 20. So sorry, I kept recording. I was like putting content. And when I was done, I was like this is 20 hours. And I was surprised by the amount of content that was in it.

But that's for the the Type Two Diabetes fitness specialist course that is hosted by the medfit Education Network. So ladies and gentlemen, we are speaking with Lisa Doherty of medfit She's the founder of medfit. There's medfit network so people can find you if you have a medical fitness certification, like the type two diabetes, fitness course or the Alzheimer's, so if you're part of that, then you're part of the network where anybody can say,

Who does this in my area, find somebody through this network, then there's the education. So you need to have an education base in those things. And so med fit education is now filling that gap that was in the industry, where would they provide an education and you can go through and, you know, the type two diabetes, the heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, the the list goes on, I think you said 30 authors, so I'm assuming there are about 30 courses, and some of those authors may have done more than one course.

So the education is there. And then there's med fit, cared, right. And this is the new one, this is the one where you and I started talking. And then I had to jump on a phone call with you to try to wrap my head around it. This is very, very exciting. And it is a big step within the fitness industry. And I want to say immediately, there's a difference between what you're going to be talking about and insurance. So with that being said, I'm going to let you loose on the audience to talk about medfit care.

Lisa Dougherty 11:23

Thank you. So I saw that the next progression of this project, you know, is the elusive medical exercise prescription. For multiple decades, we've wanted to be part of the healthcare continuum and be respected and, and work with, you know, doctors, physical therapists. And so I wanted to solve that problem as well. So there's another problem.

And I approached my clients last November, and they donated $100,000, for me to launch Medicare, which is a telehealth company, where doctors write exercise prescriptions. So first, let me say, why don't doctors write exercise prescriptions now? Well, three reasons. They don't get paid to write exercise prescriptions, they get paid for services and procedures. Number two, a lot of doctors don't know how to write exercise prescriptions.

They didn't learn anything about exercise and medical school. And then number three liability. If they write an exercise prescription, and the patient gets hurt by you know, themselves hurting themselves or the trainer, they're liable. So you know that that's why we just as an industry haven't seen those prescriptions. So with medfit care, we are we've solved that problem. through telehealth now available through COVID.

You know, you can meet with doctors virtually, which is great, you can't cross state lines. So we are recruiting doctors in all 50 states to write medical exercise prescriptions. And we're recruiting sports medicine doctor, so they're dual board certified. So that means they've gone through primary care all doctors do that. And then they specialize. So they specialized in sports medicine.

So they know how to write an exercise prescription. And we're also recruiting OBGYN for women's health. So with these prescriptions, what can you do? You can use you being the client, the member of the studio, the patient, the public can use HSA or FSA dollars to pay for a personal trainer.

So what does that mean? HSA is a health spending account, and that's pre tax dollars that you could put aside, you could put it aside even being self employed, I have an HSA account that I do. So you don't have to have a you have to be an employee flexible spending accounts are employer matched. And if you don't use the money every year, you lose it. And for example, my says My sister has an FSA that gets matched by her employer. And she never spends all her money and she loses it every year.

So you could use either of those if it's medically necessary to pay use your debit card to pay for a personal trainer. So that's a huge thing right there. We're not doing anything with insurance. We're not a licensed industry like physical therapists. So we're not you know, nothing's getting turned into insurance. And from what I hear from physical therapist, friends, they're telling us to run from insurance and Savior. Except insurance, it's like a pain in the butt filling up paperwork and you get paid, you know, pennies on the dollar.

You know, you guys don't want to do it. So So anyways, we're not doing that. Also, what you can do with this prescription and everybody can do it is you could write off your personal training on your income tax as a medical expense. So I'll a little bit about that. So we're gonna write off medical expenses on your income Tax, it needs to be 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

Most people never have enough medical expenses to write them off. I know I don't, I may get a couple of 1000. But I don't get to write them off. So personal training, I don't know about any of you listening out there. But I'm $10,000 a year to my client, my client is trained with me two to three times a week $75 A session, I'm a $10,000 a year expense to my client. And most of my clients are an RA cancer survivors. And I've had a joint replacement, you know, pre osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer survivor, you name it. That's my clientele. And I think that's most of our clientele anyways, who's training someone that's healthy? I don't know, I don't think they're hiring so.

Lisa Dougherty 15:48

So now, you know, here's my $10,000. And you know, my client that may accumulate three to 5000 on their own with my 10. Now they have $15,000, you know, of medical expenses, and now they can write them all off. So this is really huge. And this is something we can do as an industry.

The biggest challenge I was sharing with you, Rick, to start this project was to find someone to cover us for malpractice insurance. Right? Yeah, I spent like four months trying to find someone to cover trainers to take exercise prescriptions. And so no one knew that exposure.

Lisa Dougherty 16:31

Nope. And I had to hire an insurance broker. And so anyways, uh, Lloyd's of London, stepped up to the plate. And they are, they are going to insure the doctors to write the prescriptions. But they're only going to insure people that take our courses, because all of our courses were reviewed by doctors. So they have confidence that people that go through these courses are going to be safe. And then they have to be a member of the medfit network. So Lloyd's of London wants to see the trainer's profile page, they want to see their picture, they want to see if they have a college degree or, you know, if they're NASM certified, and they have to carry professional liability insurance.

So that's how this exercise prescription is going to have to work is you got to have, you know, CPT, college degree liability insurance, you have to have a public profile page with your pitcher on the med fit network, and you'll be covered under our insurance policy to accept exercise prescription. So, you know, the goal down the line would be two things, you know, for us to market directly to the public that we're writing exercise prescriptions, and you have to go to the medfit network to fulfill them.

And number two, I think eventually we're going to catch the insurance company's attention doing this, do we want to get you know, Bill insurance, I don't know. But they're gonna see that we're doing this they're going to see that exercise prevents rehabilitates chronic disease. And that fitness, I think this is the way we're going to gain respect. And the healthcare continuum is through benefit care.

Rick Richey

Like that, ladies and gentlemen, we are talking with Lisa Doherty of medfit. And this is the medfit network medfit education and med fit, cares, which is what we're really talking about right now about using the health savings account, things like that.

So what I want to do right now is Linda, let's talk about this. First things first, if I'm a personal trainer, I'm listening to this, what just talk me through the steps. And then the second thing is once I can do all of these things, and I have the wink wink type two diabetes fitness specialist course. And I want to work with somebody that has type two diabetes, how do I connect them into this medfit cares program for the reimbursement?

So talk me to through those two things, what is the fitness professional need to do? And then once they are ready, how do they then prepare their clients for it?

Lisa Dougherty 19:07
Sure. Well, if you're not a member of the medfit network, join it's 169 a year more happy to give a discount to NASM pros. Create your public profile and take one of those courses you know, as an MF N member, you always save 30% on the courses so with you know Rick's course, you'd save 30%

Once you pass the exam, you can we have trainers that are marketing themselves to the public that hey, when you train with me, I can get you a medical prescription medical prescriptions costs $199 And they're good for 12 months. So a lot of these trainers are bundling the 199 And they're actually paying they're having it part of their packages you know by 20 session package and included in it is a exercise prescription.

So you could use HSA or FSA to pay for it. Yeah. So they're bundling in the cost, or they're reducing the cost of their training package by 199. So a lot of our members are paying for the prescriptions. Although you could send someone with diabetes, they do a telehealth appointment with a doctor in their state. And then it's 199. And by the way, this is a not for profit that 199 I'm paying the doctors $150 To write the prescription and the 49 is covering the malpractice and telehealth system.

So again, this is all not for profit, I'm just trying to do something to change our industry and be part of the healthcare system. So that's where that money goes. Did I answer your question?

Rick Richey 20:45

You answered a lot of those questions. So a lot of them I asked to and you answered them. So first off, they want to get started, join the medfit network. And that is the network of people that can provide medical fitness.

So you're on the network. Now, you also need to go through some sort of education to be able to provide that. So if somebody inquires with you specifically about heart disease, or about cancer and exercise, you need to be able to provide that.

So yep, the med fit Education Network provides a list of courses where you can specialize in any one of those. And then follow that up by joining medfit cares method cares is the ability for you to now work with your clients connect them with a physician in their state that can write an exercise prescription, that cost 199. So to speak with this physician and get that exercise prescription that covers the price of the physicians time and it covers the price for the insurance and the administrative things that go on with it.

So listen, we get it or you got to do what you got to do. So with that said, though, with basically 200 bucks, you now have a new client, which you will make up with, you know, a handful of sessions, which is great. And that prescription lasts for an entire year. So now, once they are doing this with the physician, they can write this write this off. And then that kind of sounds like that, right. But they will not be paying taxes on that income. When it's health spending account or a flexible spending account. Are those the two that we're talking about? Ah, yes.

Lisa Dougherty 22:33

And you know, anything that those two don't cover what they pay out of pocket, they can write off on their tax return. Same with the 199 for the appointment, that's a medical expense, too.

And I want to mention, this is an important thing. I talked about continued education. And one of the cool things about being part of the medfit network membership organization is as long as you're a member in good standing, your continued education is free.

Because my goal is to provide you from the foundation relevant continue education so that you can remain on the network and help people. I mean, that's what this project is.

Rick Richey 23:15

Oh, that's very good. That's very good now about the network. Where can they go to access information about the network? Are there three different websites? Are they all on one website?

Lisa Dougherty 23:26

Yeah, yeah. So there's three companies, three websites, so medfit, network.org, backslash, welcome. That's our welcome page. For professionals. You could read about all the benefits and, you know, getting a public profile page. We have medfit network T shirts you could wear to work, you could put a decal on your studio, that you're a medfit network member.

All of our courses are on medfit classroom.org. And then also the webinars are on there as well. And then lastly, medfit. care.org is the telehealth division of the project. And I also want to plug that we're doing our first medical fitness conference in three years. next March. Remember, I took that hiatus at the end of 2000. So March of 2023, we welcome everybody, it's good business networking, all the doctors from medfit care will be there.

So you'll get to meet the physician in your state. That's writing your prescriptions. I think that's cool. So there'll be Doctor speaking and just other people that have authored these courses at the event. And, you know, we would love for you to you know, come and join us there.

Rick Richey 24:38

Where's that event gonna be?

Lisa Dougherty 24:40

That's gonna be in Los Angeles. Yeah, Los Angeles Athletic Club. There are 125 years and they're donating all their meeting and conference rooms to my foundation to host the event. So that was very kind and generous of them.

Rick Richey 24:57

But very Nice. Lisa, can you leave our audience now that you've left them with where to find all of this information? Maybe a little information about you? What if you do social media if they want to reach out to you directly with questions? How? If you're interested in doing that, then? Let us know.

Lisa Dougherty 25:16

Of course, so you can reach me at my email. Lisa at medfit ed.org. I welcome any emails. I'm still very even though I'm the CEO of three companies. I'm still very hands on Rick, you know that. I know. Anybody this project means so much to me. I think it's so needed. So that's where you could reach me through my email.

Rick Richey 25:38

Excellent. Perfect. Thank you so much, Lisa, for being here. Ladies, gentlemen, I want to say thank you for listening for being with us to the end of the show, learn about medical fitness, where you can go for vacation but also how your clients can benefit from it not just because you're delivering a fantastic service. But now that can be written off as long as they have that prescription through their health savings account, flexible spending, health spending account, flexible spending account, or even their income tax if that has been written off and prescribed by their physician.

I'm very excited about this because this puts us one step closer with being able to work with physicians, being able to work with those who know that exercise and physical activity is indeed medicine, and how we are the ones that are dispensing that and helping people all right. I know it's still a jagged pill for some people, but remember, we meet people where we where they are so we can deliver best to them. Thank you so much for listening.

Like Subscribe, share with your fitness friends and family you want to reach out to me you can do so at rick.ricci@nasm.org or you can hit me up on Instagram at Dr. Dot Rick Ritchie, thank you so much for listening. Keep inspiring people to fitness. This has been the NASM CPT podcast

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National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

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