Ryan Ferns: Combatting Diabetes through the groundbreaking Total Health Transformation

Ryan Ferns saw a massive shortcoming in the way traditional physical therapy was being delivered to patients in the United Stated.

“We’d be referred these patients and work with them for x number of days, or until their insurance ran out, and then we would discharge them and give them an exercise program. At most facilities, it’s a packet of papers, little stick figures, and then people are expected to follow it on their own,” said Ferns, a physical therapist and the owner of the Ryan Ferns HealthPlex in West Virginia—a MadLab Group facility. 

He added: “Physical therapy is really just exercise prescription. Our extensive schooling is more about understanding the surgeries and injuries so we can make better exercise prescription for these patients.”

The massive problem: People weren’t getting better.

“I am certain that almost nobody continued (their exercise prescriptions) on their own,” Ferns said. And then six months later, they’d return to him with the same, or a similar problem, he added. 

Frustrated that he wasn’t really able to help anyone as a physical therapist, Ferns opened his health complex six years ago, an all-encompassing health and wellness facility that has a functional fitness training area, a room with more traditional fitness equipment, a CrossFit program, a physical therapy clinic, a nutritionist and a massage therapist.

It took him a while to figure things out, he admitted. First he tried the traditional CrossFit group class model that most affiliate gyms are using today, but it failed the client, the coach and the business. Then he switched to the MadLab coach for life program—which relies heavily on one-on-one training with a personal coach for life, followed by a combination of continued personal training and group classes—and success quickly followed.

Six years later, Ferns and his coaches employ the MadLab model to what they call their “total health transformation,” a comprehensive program that helps people heal injuries, work with a coach for life to get fit, and improve their nutrition all in the same space.

His full-package approach to health and fitness means Ferns is finally able to make a lasting difference in his clients’ lives.

Ferns follows the MadLab hybrid gym model, meaning it works like this: 

“If someone comes in off the street, we immediately set them up with a coach for life and we schedule them an initial evaluation with our nutritionist. They start one-on-one training with their coach until they’re ready to go to group classes, and they continue to work with our nutritionist, first one-on-one, and then eventually through e-mail check-ins and food logs. And we also distribute videos to them on a weekly basis.”

The most groundbreaking endeavour Ferns’ facility has recently implemented, however, is a pilot project they’re currently running for Type 2 diabetics, all funded by the Health Plan, a health insurance company.

To get it going, Ferns teamed up with a local physician, who was frustrated his Type 2 diabetes patients were continuing to get worse each time he saw them.

“He was frustrated because he has 15 minutes to spend with his patients and needs to cover the whole array of their health issues, meanwhile their disease is progressing as it does for most people using our current medical model. In the end, all he has time for is to tell people they need to eat better and exercise more. It’s not enough,” Ferns said.

So Ferns and the physician approached the Health Plan and explained how Ferns’ Total Health Transformation could help people with diabetes reclaim their health, ultimately saving the insurance company a ton of money in the process.

The insurance company recognized the value of the idea and agreed to sponsor the pilot project, which is now up and running at Ferns’ facility.

Today, there are six local physicians on board, who all send clients to Ferns and his coaches. At the moment, there are 30 funded spots available for people with Type 2 diabetes, but Ferns is hoping to gain the manpower and funding in the upcoming months and years to be able to bring on 100 people into the program. He’d also like to have a physician in his facility to make things even more efficient.

“It would be great to get a physician on-site. It just makes it so much easier to do everything in one place,” he said.

How the pilot project works right now: 

Step 1: Referral: A doctor refers a patient to the program

Step 2: Screening: The patient gets blood work done, and then heads to Ferns’ facility to have their body fat measured. This is followed by a functional movement screening at Ferns’ physical therapy clinic to screen for pain and range of motion issues.

Step 3: Fitness Coaching: The client gets teamed up with a coach for life to begin personal training, and eventually does a combination of personal training and group classes.

Step 4: Nutrition Coaching: Simultaneously with personal training, the client begins working with the nutritionist at Ferns’ facility.

To say the pilot project has been a quick success is an understatement.

“We have literally had people whose blood sugars have normalized in as little as two weeks. And they’re coming off their insulin,” Ferns said. “It’s happening much faster than we expected.”

In fact, of the 10 people who started just a few months ago, all ten have either reduced or eliminated their insulin intake, as prescribed by their doctor, Ferns explained.

“The goal is to prove to the insurance company that we can do a better job managing diabetes for less money, so they’ll continued to fund the program,” he said. “We started with diabetes because it’s the most obvious. It’s completely preventable and  reversible when it is being managed, but we can extend this to other diseases, too.”

Ferns is confident the health insurance company will see this, as well, and will extend the program beyond this first project.

“This is really a game changer. It’s on a whole different level than I have ever seen anyone doing, and the people at the health insurance company agree with our position that this could drastically change the way healthcare is managed in this country,” he said.

“It’s the way forward. For everyone.”







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