Recently, I met Ethan, a health coach at one of the best clinically integrated networks in the country with 650,000 patients. He looks after the wellness of people with chronic health conditions which they acquire because of their sedentary lifestyle. On a non-busy day, he calls 10-12 patients from an exhaustive list to address their ongoing procedural requirements with 15-20 minutes per call. Sometimes, it can get hectic to keep track of all the patients, their conditions, schedules, medications et al.
When it comes to care coordination, our health coaches are the real heroes who deserve to get a better deal than what is the current reality. If things were made more efficient and automated, it would save health coaches precious hours and take their efforts up a notch.
What is the role of a health coach?
To list down three major reasons as to why we need health coaches:
- To actively engage patients and their families
- To improve or optimize medical adherence
- To improve outcomes and thereby reduce costs
A more straightforward answer to why the healthcare system requires health coaches is because the traditional methods were not working very well. Health coaches offer services and fill gaps that doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians don’t have the time or resources to fill. Their role involves viewing health and wellness from a holistic perspective, that is to say, they are interested in the whole person. For this, they must know their patients in and out; this includes being aware of what the patient’s medical history is, which medications they are taking or even which care plan has been laid out by their physician.
Health coaching very much involves partnering with the patients and the premise of this is placing the concerns of the patient first. For example, a traditional health coach will instruct a diabetic patient to show up for appointments on time and cautiously warn them of the consequence if they do not adhere to their care plan. He or she will act out of a basic understanding of the said patient’s unpunctual behavior. On the other hand, a technologically empowered health coach will have an in-depth knowledge of the patient and will try to get to the root cause of why the patient is not turning up for his appointments. Now, suppose the patient gets caught up with personal commitments and that is the reason for him missing his appointments. The health coach now updated with this new information will automatically formulate another plan that sits well for the patient thus, ensuring that he never misses another appointment.
Below is an illustrative comparison between a health coach in a traditional setting and one who is technologically empowered:
Traditionally, health coaches approach the patients by directing information “at” them. The actual goal is to have the patient do the things that are prescribed for them. Health coaches know about disease processes, exercise guidelines, special diets, and medications that must be imparted to the patient and caregivers. They do this in the form of booklets, pamphlets, CDs, and the like. What if they could have all this information on the same platform that presents it on a single screen-view to everyone from care teams to patients and caregivers? The Care Intelligence System™, Datashop, has been designed to do precisely this through its Patient 360.
Going from manual to automated
How can we change the lives of health coaches for the better? How do we ensure that their time and efficiency is optimized so that they can look after the patients with extra care?
Health coaches set goals for patients and formulate individual plans to track and evaluate progress. Back in the day, health coaches would shuffle through a ton of paperwork and to this day many follow the same methods. However, more often than not, health coaches are taking to the new tools available to them in the form of interactive dashboards.
Automated workflow and strategies
Automated workflows: All workflows that health coaches need to follow are updated automatically based on the latest inputs from the user.
Dynamic care plans: The care plans for each patient are dynamic in nature and are customized as per patient response.
Push notifications and alerts: Discharge alerts, admit alerts, transfer alerts, and high-risk patient alerts show up on the screen as and when this information is fed into the system.
Pre-set strategies: Data-driven care coordination ensures that health coaches have access to easy and pre-set strategies, especially for chronically ill patients.
Easy data-sharing with care teams: Efficient healthcare platforms allow health coaches to securely share patient information with the rest of the care team.
How does data-driven evidence-based health coaching help?
As opposed to counseling, directing or managing, evidence-based health coaching is the application of clinical interventions to actively engage patients in self-management of health conditions and health behavior change, with the goal to improve health outcomes, lower health risk and reduce overall costs. With the inclusion of data in care management, health coaches will go through the entire care process with more efficiency.
All face-to-face interactions or communication by phone between physicians and patients are documented within the patients’ care plan, which can be accessed through a data portal. Additionally, the care plan is updated during every visit to reflect patient progress, health status, and updated goals. Streamlining care coordination with the help of data is bound to result in reduced hospitalization rates as health coaches start treating patients preemptively.
Additionally, giving health coaches access to patient SDOH data will be crucial for determining changes in health outcomes because, for a health coach, a patient is the real change agent, whose health is influenced by social factors like birth generation, lifestyle, faith and so on and so forth.
The road ahead
Since health coaches have to use different strategies and techniques for each of their patients based on the understanding that everyone is different, it begs the need to give attention to IT solutions and tools that help health coaches in making the best choices. Health coaches enable patients with the skills to truly change the way they live, and we want to transform the way they are doing it. Therefore, any health organization that is willing to enhance the performance of their health coaches should turn to solutions that facilitate data-driven and evidence-based health coaching.
To know more on how we can help healthcare organizations automate their processes and enhance efficiency, get a demo.
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