Health and wellness coaching is a growing industry with more and more people turning to coaches for help. When the right coaches, training, and applications are all available, health coaching supports a range of patient goals, including weight loss, smoking cessation, and improved sleep. Coaches complement the services provided at a primary care center and contribute toward improved patient health outcomes.
However, because the field is unregulated and nearly anyone can call themselves a health coach, it can be far too easy for unqualified and unregulated “coaches” to pose as experts. Without solid training or experience, a coach might inadvertently prevent their clients from reaching their goals or, in some situations, actively endanger their health.
At Vera Whole Health, we take health coaching very seriously. We’ve seen the impact a strong support system can have on both individual and population health. We believe in giving patients access to reliable guidance, in addition to tools for setting and meeting their goals.
To that end, we ensure that our health coaching services are fully integrated with our primary care model and that our Vera whole health coaches are fully trained to meet the varied needs of a diverse member base.
“At Vera, the idea that individuals need time to connect with a provider or health coach to explore their health goals is taken seriously. The coaching that we do at Vera is structured, individualized, and centered on the needs and interests of patients.” — Allie Quady, Vera Whole Health Coach
Health coaching as part of whole health
Sometimes healthcare means offering the right treatments to the right people at the right time. Sometimes it means identifying risks that could negatively impact their future health. But that isn’t the whole picture. Members also need tools allowing them to make better choices and improve unhealthy habits over the long term. This allows them to manage their own health in an informed and proactive way.
Vera health coaches are a core part of primary care teams, working in tandem with providers and other allied professionals to give members the best care possible. Health coaching complements the medical advice given by providers and nurses, furnishing members with practical ways to define and meet their health goals. A Vera patient might meet more frequently with their health coach, working together to build new habits on a regular, ongoing basis. Not only does this dynamic act as a source of support for patients in the short term, but it also has a long-term effect, preventing and reducing the severity of future health issues. This strategic, comprehensive approach is one of the key ways advanced primary care (APC) is able to improve outcomes for patients.
Health coaching isn't just a trend. Studies have shown it works, including this study in which patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experienced a significant decrease in hospital admissions related to their COPD when they worked alongside a health coach.
“As a Whole Health Coach, I have the wonderful opportunity to witness, inspire, and propel people to take their health into their own hands and help create personal health outcomes that they may not have thought possible before.” — Shawna Bowen, Vera Whole Health Coach
Tools for patient progress
Empathetic listening is a key component of emotional intelligence and one of the core principles of the Vera APC model. Alongside other primary care team members, health coaches are trained in empathetic listening, enabling them to provide a deeper and more connected form of care to their patients. Empathetic listening allows coaches to:
Build trust and truly connect with their patient
Determine what motivates that person
Provide the specific coaching that person needs
Empathetic listening is also a tool for driving patient engagement, because a patient who knows their coach truly listens and understands is a patient who will be more invested in the outcomes of that coaching and, thus, their own health journey.
In addition, health coaches at Vera are well-versed in transtheoretical behavior change methods. Transtheoretical behavior change methods are about truly meeting a patient where they’re at and acknowledging the ongoing approach required for sustained progress.
The more thoroughly Vera health coaches are able to listen and gain context for each member, the better they are at providing personalized guidance in altering the behaviors and mindsets that stand in the way of living a healthier, happier life.
A partner at every step
Empathetic listening and transtheoretical behavior change methods are both vital in allowing Vera health coaches to provide a meaningful level of care and support.
Specialized training also allows Vera health coaches to support social determinants of health. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, “social determinants of health are conditions in the social environment in which people are born, live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” There’s a great opportunity for health coaches to guide patients in addressing issues such as chronic stress, poor diet, low levels of physical activity, and coping mechanisms resulting from social determinants of health.
While changing established behaviors and supporting social determinants of health is never simple, our Vera health coaches work with patients at each step of their journey to make the process more manageable.