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Board-Certified Health Coaching: What physicians should know about a new standard of care

Michelle Alencar | September 14, 2020

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

michelle headshot blog (1)A physician shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032 is expected as the need for physicians continues to outpace the number of providers available to patients (Source: AAMC). One of the major factors driving this demand is the growing, aging population. Age increases the prevalence of chronic conditions affected by poor lifestyle choices -- chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis are all affected by lifestyle behavior choices.  

Currently, physicians and other healthcare providers have limited time to adequately address the needs of a patient to drive true lifestyle change from a holistic view: nutrition, fitness, support, and behavior change. The prescription of holistic lifestyle therapy is the ingredient missing in today’s standard medical care because of the time and resource burden. Combined with a physician shortage, providers are looking to expand their practice care teams. However, physicians face a difficult choice when it comes to deciding how. While bringing on an additional medical provider or expanding current provider practice hours may seem like the logical choice for immediate improvements, the physician shortage is real and is not a long term or cost-effective solution. The answer is to leverage health coaches as a better alternative to address the lifestyle change their patients so desperately need. 

Let’s level-up and set the record straight on health coaches. 

The demand for health coaches is on the rise. Health coaching has emerged as a $6 billion service market with a promising trajectory. According to market data there are estimated to be 109,000 health coaches and health educators with a forecast to grow at a 5.4% average annual pace to $7.85 billion in 2022 with 121,000 coaches. But not all health coaches are created equal. There are a variety of definitions and training programs for health coaches that range from a weekend course to a board-level certification and accreditation. With a wide variety of options, it is hard for providers to know which coach is best in class. 

Health and wellness coaching formally entered the health care system in 2017 through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching (ICHWC), which established the National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) credential in partnership with the National Board of Medical Examiners. This partnership was created to bridge clinical medicine with lifestyle medicine. Next, Category III level CPT codes for potential reimbursement were given to board-certified health coaches. Board-certified health and wellness coaches use evidence-based methods to work with patients affected by chronic disease. They have verified skills that intrinsically motivate a patient to take charge of their health; this is essential to establishing lasting lifestyle changes that work.  

Leveraging this movement, we at inHealth Lifestyle Therapeutics developed the Lifestyle Therapeutics Coaching Academy to raise the bar for health coach certification and in anticipation of more patients and providers relying on health coaches. Our certification program is built on a foundation of clinical health coaching (published in clinical studies) with an added layer of patient ownership to drive engagement and outcomes. Through this rigorous level of coaching we have a unique opportunity to impact the entire healthcare system from the ground up and empower the next generation of Health and Wellness coaches to drive outcomes tied to clinical practice.  

I am excited to share that our inHealth Lifestyle Therapeutics Coaching Academy recently received certification from the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches! It is our vision to partner with physicians not only to create an opportunity to drive clinical outcomes, but to bridge the gap between physicians and patients for the needed support to make change. 

Our Lifestyle Therapeutics Coaching Academy works with the healthcare system.

The inHealth Lifestyle Therapeutics Coaching Academy is designed for health coaches within, or interested in working in, a clinical setting or who have healthcare experience. The current inHealth model is prescribed by healthcare providers and is reimbursed by insurance. Our Clinical Health Coaches partner with healthcare providers to act as an extension of the provider’s care team. Coaches help execute the provider’s care plan by coaching the patient to drive behavior change related to lifestyle. The future vision is to have NBC-HWC certified coaches use the new Category III Health Coaching CPT codes. Future dissemination of the program includes licensing and training Health Coaches of large health systems, health plans, and employer groups.  

By using trained clinical health coaches, organizations can increase client engagement, clinical outcomes, and ROI. The true vision of the program will be used at scale and to help lifestyle therapeutics-based health coaching become standard practice and become part of any prescription given for chronic disease. If you want to learn more or are interested in signing up for our next class cohort, please message me.