Health Coaches Encourage Members to Improve Health
Optima Health employs more than 40 health coaches. This is an emerging role at health plans, physician offices, hospitals and employers across the country. The tools of their trade—a phone, a goal, a positive attitude, lots of great tips and compassion.
Optima Health was featured in an article in The Virginian-Pilot newspaper on December 25, 2011 about health coaching.
Health coaches can come from all walks of life. Most are nurses, some are dietitians, licensed clinical social workers, and some are even pharmacists. Their role is to work with individuals to educate, provide resources, set goals and answer questions that relate to improving their health or avoiding a chronic health condition.
At Optima Health, health coach is their title, but their job descriptions reflect the title, case managers. Both are synonymous. Their role is to help members avoid expensive hospital stays and to help control and/or prevent them from developing diseases such as diabetes, asthma and chronic heart failure.
Health coaches work in concert with the physician office, the hospital and the member to offer advice and guidance during a particular period of time. The idea is to make people more proactive about their health and lead them to become more self-sufficient.
Janet Kennon is one of the health coaches at Optima Health. She says that members feel more accountable just knowing that someone is going to call to ask about their weekly action plan, therefore more likely to stick to their goals.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of employer health benefits in 2011 found that 27 percent of companies are offering employees access to health coaches, with some giving financial incentives for working with one.
“Most people appreciate the calls,” Kennon said. “But sometimes I do sense people are overwhelmed with life at the moment, so I’ll be brief and just tell them I’m here when they need me. We are not all ready to change. And if it’s not self-motivated, it’s not going to happen.”