How Digital Health Coaching Can Mind the Healthcare Gap
Keeping your employees engaged in their health can be challenging. With a laundry list of daily distractions, personal health to-do items often take a backseat.
That’s where health coaches coupled with today’s technology are coming to the rescue, providing support for individuals—especially those with chronic conditions–as they work to improve and better manage their health. Health coaches can be seen as an extension of care: professionals who help facilitate patient treatment and education on behalf of physicians.
The reality is that not only are your employees overly busy, their practitioners are equally pressed for time, which leaves a gap in healthcare. According to The Role of Wearables and PGHD in the Care Delivery Continuum, a recent HIMSS Media report sponsored by Fitbit, only about one in four respondents felt that healthcare professionals have sufficient time to visit with patients to address all their medical needs.
Where physicians drop off, health coaching can help, especially those who use digital tools to provide anytime, anywhere advice. The HIMSS report found that half of hospitals and health systems in the survey reported using (or planning to digitally connect patients with) a health coach, a trend mid- to large-sized organizations are three times as likely to embrace as small healthcare systems. If you’re thinking about adding health coaching to your benefits portfolio, here’s a quick look at some of the early research:
Health coaching can lead to sustainable health benefits. Physicians and non-physician providers are partnering with health coaches to help connect the dots for an individual patient’s lifestyle and care plan–and having success. Health coaching has been shown to improve outcomes in patients with cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension, and this research study from the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine showed that the effects of health coaching could even be sustained a year later.
Health coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all option. While in-person health coaching can be effective, digital health coaching such as Fitbit Care has the added value of anywhere convenience, which could be key with your overbooked employees.
Digital health coaching is delivered through a variety of business models and modes, including in-person appointments, scheduled telephonic conversations, video calling, and text messaging in a digital health coaching mobile app. Asynchronous communications such as text exchanges have proven to be highly effective in driving better outcomes because it integrates the coaching experience into daily life.
Health coaching adds personalization that can help drive behavior change. A health coach can work with an individual to help them manage a chronic health issue or overcome a difficult challenge, such as smoking cessation. A health coaching platform, which in some cases can include communications from multiple care team members, can personalize information and align it with the goals of the patient as well as the goals of the provider. The HIMSS Media Report notes that the combination of wearables and health coaching can help to increase patient motivation and engagement with their care.
“Driving long-term behavior change is difficult, but health coaches as individuals can do what machines can’t yet do. They can intuitively understand what matters to a particular individual and build a coaching program around it,” says Rob Havasy, Senior Director, Health Information Systems at HIMSS.