When it comes to managing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, there’s no quick fix. It’s a matter of changing your lifestyle for the long haul, and many doctors don’t have the time or resources to provide their patients with that kind of support.
Enter: the Health Coach. A new study from the University of California San Francisco shows that health coaching can play a crucial role in chronic disease management.
Researchers divided 441 patients with diabetes, hypertension, and/or hyperlipidemia into two groups: those who received their normal medical care and those who also worked with a Health Coach. The Health Coaches met with patients before visits, remained in the exam room during visits, reviewed the doctor’s care plan immediately after visits, and followed up with patients between appointments.
The results were stunning: patients who had worked with Health Coaches faired significantly better than those who did not.
Nearly twice as many coached patients got their diabetes under control as those who did not have a Health Coach (48.6% versus 27.6%) and 41.8% of coached patients reached their LDL cholesterol goals versus 25.4% of patients who had no Health Coach.
"I came into it like a lot of doctors – a little skeptical. But there are services that would benefit our patients that we just don't have the time or focus to do,” said the principal investigator for the study, Dr. David Thom.
“When patients are managed by the doctor, we often do so in four or five 15-minute visits a year, and in between those visits we have little or no contact with the patient.
"To think that is optimal is naïve. It's amazing that we've gotten along for so long without using health coaches, and we haven't even realized all the benefits yet," he said.
As for next steps? Get involved. Says study author Rachel Willard-Grace, “There is tremendous interest in implementing health coaching programs, but practices struggle to find the funding to make those programs sustainable. Policymakers can help by supporting funding mechanisms that make health coaching financially viable.”
This is incredible news and shows that the real health revolution is just beginning. Imagine if every patient had the support of a Health Coach?