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An Effective, Yet Affordable Solution for Health Systems, Health Plans, Providers AND Patients

Michelle Alencar | April 16, 2021

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

michelle headshot blog (1)Obesity-related conditions oftentimes cause a snowball effect for individuals, providers and health institutions leading to decrease in quality of life, provider burnout, and increased costs. Our healthcare system is seriously strained due to the burden of obesity-related conditions and in fact, 86 percent of healthcare costs are from lifestyle-driven chronic diseases like obesity.  

One effective solution to alleviate this burden is to incorporate lifestyle medicine into your practice delivered by non-physician clinicians. Lifestyle medicine/therapy is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic interventions as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat, and often reverse obesity-related chronic diseases. These services come in the form of health coaching and now in a post-COVID world, many are available through virtual visits.

With my experience in the industry, I have seen countless success stories, but not just for patients – health coaching can benefit health systems, private practices, providers AND patients alike.

Health systems and provider practices benefit with more options to prescribe, higher reimbursements and ongoing, proactive treatment. Providers see an offset in physician burnout with more support from other clinicians, an increase in number of touch points for the patient and a new workflow that eases the load for office staff. Patients benefit from health coaching with more support and accountability, care on their terms at-home through virtual visits and decision-making power to choose their health goals. 

Additionally, in recent clinical trials and research studies with patients of a BMI > 30, lifestyle therapy with health coaching has been found to significantly reduce body weight (7.7 percent in 12 weeks with sustained weight loss at 12 months), reduce blood pressure (by 86 percent from hypertensive to prehypertensive or normotensive), and/or improve quality of life by 60 percent [1,2,3,4] 

On top of those benefits, a recent study by UPMC found “patients are significantly more likely to engage in health coaching when a referral is made by a physician and engagement in health coaching significantly improves health risk levels.” In fact, patients were over six percent more likely to complete their program requirements vs being referred by insurer-initiated outreach. 

When you think about the rapport built between a provider and patient versus health plan and patient, these results make sense. Patients trust their providers and the recommendations of their health care provider. When patients are prescribed health coaching by their provider AND it is a covered benefit by insurance, they are more likely to start and complete the program. And reflected in the above benefits, everyone’s lives – patients, providers, health institutions, AND insurers – get better with lifestyle therapy. 

So how do you get started with lifestyle therapy? There are many options out there, but lucky for you I am presenting on how to expand your obesity medicine team with frontline lifestyle therapy at the Obesity Medicine Association’s 2021 Virtual Conference. I will be presenting on April 21 @ 10:30am PST at their pre-conference event, Obesity Medicine Practice Management Essentials, followed by a live chat to answer questions.  

Register today and join me at the OMA Virtual Conference. I look forward to seeing you there! 

Johnson Ket al. Telemedicine and eHealth., 2018 

2 Alencar et al., in-reviewTelemedcine and Telecare, 2021 

3 Johnson et al., AJHP, 2020  

4 Alencar et al., Telemedicine and eHealth., 2019