Doctors as Health Coaches? Why Wellness Is Moving into the Medical Paradigm

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

Doctors are fitting nutrition and exercise counseling into patient visits as payors focus more on lifestyle and health reform’s incentives for wellness and prevention, according to an article in this week’s Time Magazine. Quoted is Dr. Edward Phillips, founder and director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (ILM) at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Harvard Medical School. As far back as 2008, when he spoke with us about this emerging trend, Dr. Phillips was on a mission to reduce lifestyle-related disease and mortality through physician-directed intervention:

“Right now, physicians don’t counsel people on increasing their activity. Physicians cannot continue to ignore this evidence when formulating treatment plans for our patients. No patient should leave a physician’s office without an assessment of their physical activity and a proper prescription of an exercise program.

As we talk about the physician’s role in promoting wellness, the evidence is pretty overwhelming that this is something we should be doing. So what are the challenges? Wellness is not within the traditional medical paradigm. We’re quite good at treating illness, and there is some attention given to prevention, but certainly not as much as there is to the more heroic efforts after the disease has already occurred. However, there remains a unique opportunity to personalize health messages and urge health-promoting activities.”

For more thoughts from Dr. Phillips, including details on a program that provides physicians with a roadmap to health coaching, listen to this audio interview.

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