Vera Whole Health is committed to improving patient health through behavior change. It’s why all Vera on-site clinics employ full-time, trained health coaches as part of a patient’s dedicated care team. It’s also why our hiring practices and training techniques include a focus on behavior change so that health coaches have the tools they need to help patients identify and achieve their goals for better health. To learn more about behavior change and why it’s so important at Vera, we sat down with CEO Ryan Schmid for an informative Q&A session.
Want to find out what behavior change means from a practitioner’s perspective? Read our Q&A with Coaching Operations Specialist, Cheridan Bryant below.
But first, our conversation with Vera CEO Ryan Schmid.
Q&A on behavior change with Ryan Schmid
Q: How would you define the transtheoretical model of change? How is it reflected in the overall Vera brand?
Ryan: The transtheoretical model is a framework that identifies the five stages of behavior change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Basically, it means you have to meet somebody where they’re at. Each stage has goals that are specific to that state of change.
More importantly, you have to help identify what is motivating them. You have to help them recognize victories and use that to fuel movement. How it’s reflected in our brand boils down to empathy. At Vera, we help people change behavior by esteeming through empathetic listening.
Q: What systemic problems did an emphasis on behavior change solve as you were designing the Vera model?
Ryan: I would say that the root cause of our broken healthcare system is the fact that we as a country are getting less and less healthy. If it’s true that 70% of healthcare costs are related to lifestyle then it seems like we need to change our lifestyles.
Q: From your perspective as the creator of the Vera model, how integral is it to Vera’s identity? Is there a Vera without behavior change?
Ryan: It’s absolutely essential. Our vision statement is to create a health revolution. If all we do is change how healthcare is delivered and paid for, we’re not successful. Our goal is to make people healthier.
Q: How is the emphasis on behavior change received in the sales process? What resonates and what doesn’t?
Ryan: I think that it depends on the goal of the organization. There are those that think of behavior change as a long-term investment and if they have high turnover, it’s harder to make them see the benefit. For example, if an organization has high turnover but they get everyone to stop smoking, they’re preventing cancer but it’s happening too far down the road. Making those investments in health is then a payoff that only helps their competitor. But, that’s a small percentage of attitudes.
What resonates for us is our focus on reducing medical and prescription spending. Part of the way you create a short-term ROI is by providing more resources in a family medicine setting so that patients can make rapid lifestyle changes that affect your bottom line, particularly around chronic illnesses or bouncing between specialty care. That’s behavior change that has an immediate impact on claims.
To understand how behavior change works from a practitioner's perspective, we chatted with Vera Coaching Operations Specialist, Cheridan Bryant.
Q&A on coaching with Cheridan Bryant
Q: How does Vera’s emphasis on behavior change influence recruiting and staff training?
Cheridan: We hire coaches that have a background in coaching so they’re already experienced when they join us. While we prioritize candidates who are already familiar with the transtheoretical model, we always go through the model during onboarding to ensure coaches understand the stages of change and are comfortable using the model. Our non-coaching staff go through a “What is Coaching” training session to understand what resources are available to them within the Vera model.
Q: What does an emphasis on behavior change look like in practice when a patient engages with Vera?
Cheridan: During a visit, providers are listening for certain keywords that indicate a patient is curious about change. Coaching might be a recommendation from the provider because they identified a gap, or maybe they hear the patient say ‘I want to do this’ or ‘I should do this’ when talking about their own health.
Q: How does empathetic listening play into all of this?
Cheridan: Being empathetic means understanding the person and walking in their shoes. You’re meeting them where they’re at and listening to what they’re going through rather than pushing them or telling them what to do. Really hearing the person and trusting they are doing their best with what they have is essential.
Q: Why is behavior change so important in achieving actual health outcomes for patients?
Cheridan: They know they’re not alone. Through empathetic listening, people feel connected and feel like they’re not being judged. A lot of times people know what to do. It’s the process of change that’s the hard part. Anyone can tell someone what to do, but listening to a person, empowering them to create their own change, and increasing their self-efficacy is the key to lasting change.
We’re getting out of the traditional healthcare system that uses Band-Aid fixes rather than identifying lifestyle changes that allow patients to be the healthiest version of themselves. You’re really helping them rather than just giving them advice. You’re making them resourceful. It’s like coaching yourself out of a job. You want to coach them so they can coach themselves, so they can make their life as healthy as it can be.