Become a health coach

The concept of wellness isn’t new, but the emphasis about getting healthier and staying healthy through wellness programs has taken a quantum leap over the past couple of years, especially in the employer markets and with Medicare Advantage Plans. Although many organizations like to tout the fact they offer wellness initiatives, the need to improve the overall quality of health care through preventive measures has gained a lot of ground with the inclusion of programs that go beyond a basic gym membership or healthy food served in the cafeteria or lounges in corporate facilities.

According to Smart Business News Online, worksite health promotion is an investment in a company’s most important asset—its employees. Studies have shown that employees are more likely to perform well and less likely to exhibit presenteeism—showing up to work when sick and, as a result, underperforming—when they are in optimal health.

As the workplace dynamic continues to change due to an increased number of employees who are working remotely and/or with flexible schedules, employers are faced with new challenges as suggested by JRG Advisors in Pittsburgh. The absence of employees from the physical workplace makes it difficult to implement a one-size-fits-all wellness program, making it more important than ever to consider the individual’s needs, resources and environment when developing a wellness program. While one employee may be located in the city with easy access to local markets and fitness facilities, a more rural employee may not be.

One key component to help improve the lives of employees in the wellness marketplace is health coaching. They don’t carry whistles or bench you after a bad night, but health coaches increasingly are helping patients up their game in terms of wellness. Health coaches are typically nurses, dietitians, diabetes educators, social workers or pharmacists who contact health plan members with chronic medical conditions or those at high risk of developing them, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Their main mission: Help patients confront challenges such as managing their medications, losing weight and increasing their physical activity levels—all of which can lead to less pain and lower medical costs over time.

Health coaches often use motivational interviewing techniques to help people build confidence, set personal health goals and stick to them. Coaches may ask participants to keep a journal of their daily eating habits or blood-sugar readings, for example, so participants can monitor their progress and alert the coach to obstacles.

Per the WSJ, if your insurance plan gives you access to a health coach, here are a few tips to get the most of it: A health coach should build trust with you right away by being organized and prepared when you have conversations. The coach should call you at the appointed time and remember your name and what you last spoke about for your particular case. A coach should help you cope with peer pressure and give you alternatives for scenarios such as eating out. Expect a coach to ask detailed questions about your exercise and diet preferences and how much family support you have at home. Many coaches will include family members on the calls if it is appropriate. Prepare to be held accountable to your goals. If you're not committed, then you're probably not going to be successful.

As noted by GlaxoKlineSmith, the identification of “at risk” populations and the appropriate targeting of interventions that address their needs are critical components of health management.

Health coaching plays an important role in this strategy and assists the participants in reducing and managing chronic health conditions. Once a Health Risk Assessment has been taken by the employee, a health coach works with the patient to develop actionable goals related to personal needs, lifestyle management, risk reduction, and management of health conditions. The health coach can also work with the employee to facilitate engagement and maintenance of improving behaviors, habits, overall health and personal effectiveness. The coaching firm would also report back results to the employer sponsoring the program to develop any required revisions to it and its net effectiveness to the organization.

There are many options for health coaching, and one key component is how good the counselors are, plus the amount of utilization when employees are actively engaged in the program. According to the Health Information Network, health coaching is frequently prescribed to alleviate chronic disease attributed to lifestyle factors like smoking, poor eating habits and physical inactivity. To reduce the economic and clinical weight of this burden, the health care industry is banking on the behavior change that can be facilitated by health coaching programs.

One major player in the wellness industry that delivers very successful health coaching results is Trotter Wellness, based in Wisconsin. Employees who participate in client campaigns receive clear communications and instructions, biometric testing, an advanced health risk assessment, active telephonic health coaching outreach, extensive health information, a suite of wellness decision support tools, targeted mailings, year to year annual comparison of personal results and much more.

Trotter also provides a coaching resource file that allows their health coaches to seamlessly integrate and maximize current available resources such as EAP, prevention benefits, local provider resources, educational programs, web links and other services available throughout the employee’s organization or in the community. Their results have proven over time to increase ROIs in the multiples of at least 5 to 1.

Health Coaching has significant advantages when employers and employees are engaged. When all the stakeholders are interested in improving the health of the community and workforce, good things happen. Also, there is a positive return on investment that makes the CFO happy when health coaching works. Think about providing this type of wellness initiative for your employees. They will thank you for helping them improve their health and their behavior. The end result of health coaching is a healthier environment and lifestyle.

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