6 Reasons to Include a Health Coach in an ACO

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
This post was written by Patricia Donovan

In a very funny video about health reform and accountable care organizations that was recently brought to my attention (thank you, Health2 Resources), the computer-generated help clerk asks a bewildered healthcare executive what he knows about health coaches. It got me to thinking about the role of the health coach in an ACO, which led me to a very interesting discussion on the topic by Patrick T. Buckley, MPA, IHC, for HealthLeaders Media.

Buckley notes that “the challenge most providers face with accountable care organizations is not just how to manage risk, but also how to assist and coach individuals on making positive and sustained changes in their lifestyles.” One way to overcome this challenge is to engage the services of integrative health coaches within the ACO, who acts as a “conduit” between the physician and patient. Integrative health coaches encourage patients to change personal behavioral patterns, he explains, which ultimately leads to a healthier, more satisfied ACO member and patient — which makes the physician look pretty good when it’s time to measure and reward the doctors for patient outcomes.

Here are Buckley’s six reasons to add a health coach to an accountable care organization:

  • Coached patients learn how to effectively navigate the health system, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

  • Coached patients are more committed to making permanent improvements in their lifestyle behaviors, which improves the physician’s performance on outcome measures.

  • There is significant improvement in the quality of the patient/provider relationship: patients are more engaged in and informed about their care options whereas providers are less stressed because they can more easily get positive results for their patients.

  • Coached patients generally show sustained health improvements and have less likelihood to require readmission to a hospital during the 30 days post-discharge.

  • Coaching provides patients with continuity before, during, and after engagement with the health system. It levels out the episodic nature of the care process, so that physician-patient interaction time can focus on productive solutions as opposed to re-hashing information in the exam room.

  • Integrative health coaching strengthens the loyalty of patients and helps to keep them from leaving the system due to fragmented and disjointed care coordination.
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