Patients with chronic disease need help to adopt and sustain healthy behaviors. They need to learn what to do and how to do it, and they need support to live healthier lives. Yet, primary care providers rarely learn how to counsel patients on healthy living and have less time than ever to provide direct patient care, due to increasing administrative responsibilities.
Merely telling patients what to do doesn’t work. Support for behavior change is essential.
Instead, patients need to be engaged in decisions about their health. One of the best ways I’ve found to help patients make behavior changes is through health coaching. Health coaches can be trained medical assistants, lay people, nurses or other staff members who:
- Provide patient education and support
- Assess patients’ understanding
- Engage patients in developing and following action plans for healthier behaviors
Health coaches support patients in making and sustaining healthy behaviors through ongoing check-ins between doctor’s visits, either in person or by telephone. By helping patients understand their chronic disease(s) and actively participate in their care, coaches support patients in developing and following action plans for healthier behaviors.
Health coaching has clinical and operational benefits and contributes to integrative primary care. In fact, by using health coaches for annual wellness visits, diabetes counseling and chronic care management, a health coach may pay for itself and more.
Integrative primary care is the coordinated delivery of evidence-based conventional medical care, complementary medicine and lifestyle medicine within a primary care practice. This is the type of care we need to help improve the health of our nation.
It’s time we used all the resources we have to help our patients stay healthy and heal.