Are Coaches the Key to Patient-Centered Care?

There are several loud and competing conversations taking place right now about the state of healthcare and how it can be improved. While we don't know what the state of coverage and reimbursement is going to look like going forward as policy continues to shift in the US, we can focus on what we know, which is that patient needs aren't currently being met at every level. 

Patients with particular health concerns, like a chronic illness, following up after a battle with cancer, or health maintenance questions, often feel rushed through their appointments. The tragedy in this is multi-faceted; a patient makes an appointment, pays a co-pay, waits for their turn to see the doctor (or nurse practitioner or PA), listens to the doctor talk, hopes to get a few words in about their thoughts, questions, or concerns, and gets rushed out the door, frequently leaving with more questions than answers.

You have healthcare dollars being spent without value backing them up, patient time being treated as less valuable than that of the doctor's office,  a healthcare provider feeling rushed and pressured to move through appointments at the speed of light, and a patient who has put aside time and money in a quest for support in a challenging health situation, only to leave feeling like nothing has changed since they first walked through the door (except their wallet is lighter and the sun is further down in the sky). 

Health and wellness coaching is not a fix for the broken system, but simply one area where we can do more and do it better. Well-trained national board-certified health and wellness coaches are a piece of the puzzle that can help alleviate the pressure on healthcare providers as a valuable member of the healthcare team. Coaches are available to provide support and time the doctor or nurse may not be able or willing to commit due to the constraints currently in place while putting emphasis on the success of the patient in implementing the regimen and lifestyle modifications that the doctor has prescribed. Most importantly, coaches positively affect patient self-efficacy in their own care and outcomes due to a self-directed foundation of support.

That being said, I was intrigued by the recent Diabetes Daily article "What Do You Think of this Person-Centered Diabetes Care Model?". I would counter this question with another, "Are coaches the key to patient-centered care?"

After reading the article in full, I found myself thinking that this is the role that coaches are already playing in their clients' lives and on their medical teams. Certified health and wellness coaches (like myself) are trained to do exactly what the study protocol called for nurses and doctors to enact (with respect to the differences in scope of practice for coaching versus practicing medicine, of course).

The article goes over the findings of a study of a person-centered approach to care. What the study found is what certified health and wellness coaches and the institutions that train them already know: when consulting patients on their perspective on their own disease(s), goals, treatment choices, and care, patients are more involved in their own care, partake in shared decision making, and feel respect and dignity in the way that their medical team is approaching their care. 

I'm here to say that person-centered diabetes care is exactly what the doctor should be ordering. As a patient and professional, I feel quite strongly that person-centered care is the way care should be delivered, period.

If every doctor and every nurse had the ability to incorporate this philosophy into each and every appointment with their patients, that would be ideal. I would love to see that happen (and I see and hear of it happening more frequently all the time), but we aren't there yet. There are too many roadblocks interfering with what happens between the patient and their doctor, like insurance companies and time constraints and our general approach to care, at this point in time.

In the meanwhile, I love that this is both a topic of conversation and formal study. Let's figure out a way to get us all, patients, health professionals, and payers, on the same page about approaching chronic disease care. In the meanwhile, national board-certified health and wellness coaches will continue to lead the way in respecting the patient as the expert in their own care and leader on their vision-driven journey of health. 



Discolure: I write for Diabetes Daily, but wrote about the above-mentioned article of my own interest and volition and did not receive compensation for mentioning or linking to the article.