Should You Work With a Health Coach?
Many physicians are accustomed to working with Registered Dieticians (RDs), trained staff who work with patients to advise them on diet changes to improve particular health conditions. However, the use of Health Coaches is now gaining acceptance by many in the healthcare community.
Although both RDs and health coaches provide nutrition support, many health coaches supply more broad support for patients in areas ranging from diet to exercise and even mental health and personal goal achievement. Following is some information about health coaches and how they can help you support your patients in following their care plans.
What’s the difference between an RD and a health coach?
RDs have to successfully complete the national registration exam and their services can be covered by insurance, making it possible to work in hospitals, medical clinics and doctors’ offices.
Health coaches come from a variety of backgrounds. Some may be mental health therapists or physical trainers who’ve decided to get certified as a health coach to augment their practice. Some may have been inspired to help others after overcoming their own health challenges and have pursued a health coaching certificate or even a graduate degree in nutrition as a result.
How can health coaches help with noncompliance?
Making dietary and lifestyle changes can be overwhelming to a patient, especially if they have other factors contributing to this feeling of overwhelm, such as job, financial or marital stress. They may also have an emotional attachment to foods and habits that are unhealthy or use overeating to fill a void in their lives.
This is where health coaches can be helpful, depending on their training. Health coaches often specialize in areas such as digestion, stress management and women’s health. Some are able to meet with clients (patients) frequently and may even do so while walking in a public park, while others can engage via phone or video chat depending on the client’s preference.
Many are trained to uncover additional lifestyle and psychological factors affecting the client’s health and will make referrals to professionals in those areas, such as therapists and medical professionals.
What is the process of working with a health coach?
Most health coaches schedule an initial consultation with the client during which they discuss their health history. Health coaches generally tend to dig deeply into the client’s health issues and goals to find out what has prevented them from reaching these goals in the past; this helps them to develop a full coaching strategy for the client.
During a coaching session, the coach may discover that eating certain foods triggers a reaction that could indicate an autoimmune response and can therefore share this information with the medical team so that they can conduct the appropriate testing.
Because health coaches are generally assessing the entire picture to determine what is preventing a person from meeting their goals, they can often uncover and support your patients more broadly. For instance, if they find out that your patient cannot meet their dietary goals due to an inability to cook, they can engage with them directly to offer meal preparation advice or training. The health coach’s goal is to look at the needs of the whole patient and develop a multi-modal strategy for success.
If you do refer to a health coach or find out your patient is working with one, collaboration is key. Both your organization and health coach should ask the patient to sign release forms so that information can be shared between the coach and the members of the medical team to best serve the patient. Ideally, both teams will share information regularly to help the patients reach their goals. This mutual effort will increase the likelihood of patient success.