How to Start a Holistic Health Business

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An overhead view of an energy worker using crystals and gem stones to heal a client.
An overhead view of an energy worker using crystals and gem stones to heal a client. (Image: diego cervo/iStock/Getty Images)

According to the American Holistic Health Association, the goal of holistic health is to achieve maximum well-being, where the whole person -- mind, body and spirit -- is functioning at its peak. Thus, rather than treating specific “illnesses,” holistic health focuses on the whole person and how it interacts with its environment. This broad definition presents a range of options for starting holistic health businesses in a variety of product and service categories.

Your Holistic Business Options

Holistic health businesses generally fall into two categories: holistic products retailing and holistic services. Holistic services are commonly referred to as “complementary and alternative medicine” -- CAM -- by the National Institute of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An incomplete list of holistic health businesses includes natural products, health spas, chiropractic/osteopathic interventions, acupuncture, massage therapy, diet-based therapies, energy therapies, and mind-body interventions. The trade publication Natural Foods Merchandiser reported that total U.S. natural products sales increased to $81 billion in 2010 representing a 7 percent increase over 2009. Excluding third-party reimbursements, NCCAM reported consumer spending of $34 billion in out-of-pocket dollars for CAM services in 2007, the most current year for available figures as of publication. Moreover, 69 percent of Americans use some form of CAM service and visit CAM practitioners 50 percent more often than traditional medical practitioners.

Holistic Products Retailing

If you plan to retail holistic products, recognize that the retail environment is changing. Natural Foods Merchandiser identified several trends in holistic products retailing that are worthy of note. Some of these key trends include conveniently located smaller-size stores, reimagined vending machines offering healthy choices, capitalizing on the two-way communication power of social media by personalizing product offerings, sourcing local suppliers and “brick-and-click holistic retailing. According to Pew Internet Research, 28 percent of American adults use mobile and social location-based services. The implication is that your holistic retailing business needs to be “omnichannel.” In addition to your brick and mortar store, tap into digital and mobile technologies for an edge over your competition.

Holistic Health Services

The consumer benefits of CAM services tend to be vague compared to other professional services, such as those of a lawyer or accountant. As such, a major hurdle in getting clients for many CAM service providers is communicating the benefit of the service offered. Instead of marketing massage therapy, one resourceful therapist says that he “facilitates the healing of soft tissue injuries.” If you offer meditation services, consider stressing one of meditation's many benefits, such as lower blood pressure or strengthened immune systems. Thus, instead of promoting your CAM service, promote the benefit of your CAM service.

Third-Party Payers

Many CAM services can be reimbursable by third-party payers when prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner, are reasonable and necessary for the treatment of an illness or injury, are goal-directed based on a documented treatment plan and the goal shows some level of improvement rather than maintaining the status quo. If you are not a licensed medical practitioner, consider associating with a network of appropriate licensed medical practitioners. If you're a massage therapist, play nice with the chiropractors in your area. Private insurance companies typically follow Federal Health Care Finance Administration payment guidelines and those of equivalent state agencies. Familiarize yourself with FHCA reimbursement guidelines and those of your state.

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