The Rise of Health Coaching: Turning Lifestyle into Medicine

inHealth | November 23, 2020

75 percent of all deaths worldwide. This is the percentage of people projected to die from chronic illness by the end of 2020 (Source: WHO). This global health crisis affects the entire healthcare system, from individuals and their families to large health systems and health plans. Chronic diseases contribute to high medical costs, lower quality of life, decreased workplace productivityand comorbidities – domino effect that quickly gains momentum without proper intervention. 

To combat this crisis, healthcare leaders recognize that there must be a shift in our overall approach from sickness and disease to wellness and prevention. But for patients with chronic disease who are past prevention, how do we shift treatment to focus on health and wellness while preventing the development of multiple chronic conditions? 

Enter clinical health coaching. With 50 percent of an individual's health stemming from lifestyle, health coaches zero in on patient lifestyle choices and habits and support them to maintain a healthier life. And when integrated with clinical care delivery, patients receive a holistic experience with collaboration from their entire care team. With this approach, we can reverse chronic disease and save millions of lives. 

The Rise of Health Coaching as We Know It

The concept of health coaching and lifestyle therapy did not gain traction until the 21st century. In the 1950s, the idea that better health outcomes were achievable through lifestyle changes emerged. This idea generated the wellness movement in the 1970s and specifically pushed employers to consider this a workplace issue (Source: Workplace Health & Safety). Large automotive companies were some of the first institutions to embrace this concept in the workplace by instituting employee wellness programs.

It wasn't until the early 2000s that wellness and prevention programs evolved to include health coaching. At this time, people realized that at-risk individuals were more successful at living healthier lives with constant support and guidance. And as healthcare costs continued to increase, patients and providers were looking for treatment options that could cut costs and simultaneously lead to better health outcomes.  

The Future of Health Coaching in the Clinical Setting

The need for health coaching services has increased for well over a decade, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, these services saw faster-than-average growth. With chronic disease numbers at an all-time high and people forced to stay at home, healthcare delivery options that are affordable, effective and virtual took center stage. 

Telehealth-enabled, clinical health coaching is the future of health coaching. Not only do these services meet patients where they are on their terms, but they are clinically proven to combat chronic disease. Clinical health coaching differs from run of the mill coaching with its integrated care delivery approach. All providers on the patient’s care team are involved in planning and the clinical health coach serves as a middle-manleading to harmonious collaboration. These services are outcomes focused and are entirely reimbursable with health plans. 

By focusing treatment plans on lifestyle modifications while collaborating with providershealth coaches can curate a holistic plan that is ultimately driven by the patient. At inHealth Lifestyle Therapeutics, close to sixty percent of patients stick with our program after six monthsOur high engagement scores are in part because of our approach to empowering patients to choose their own health goals with guidance and support that is less prescriptive and more motivatingBy empowering patients to own their experiencewe find they are more likely to stay engaged and commit to lifestyle changes for a lifetime. 

With patients embracing health coaching, the industry is working hard to increase the supply of health coaches and more specifically, clinical health coaches trained and certified to deliver outcomes and engagement. Health coaching is now a $6 billion service market with an estimated 109,000 health coaches and educators (Source: Research and Markets). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a growth of 16 percent for health educators and community health workers between 2016 and 2026. And the health management and wellness coaching field is expected to grow at an annual rate of 13 percent (Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Pre-COVID19, the adoption of telehealth-based services was extremely low, but now in a post-COVID19 world, 92 percent of physicians intend to continue offering digital health visits (Source: Amwell).  

Outcomes reported by lifestyle therapeutics programs like inHealth, combined with nationwide acceptance of digital health services and anticipated growth in the health coaching sector, ensure the future of telehealth-enabled, clinically proven health coaching is limitless.  

For more on how providers can make clinical health coaching a part of their work with patients, click on the link below. 

How to Get Started as a Provider