Using Health Coaches in a Clinical Setting

MD and health coaches in clinical setting

Roughly 60% of diseases in the US are chronic and lifestyle-driven, and four in 10 adults have two or more chronic health conditions, making chronic disease the leading cause of death and disability.1 The three main culprits behind the high rate of chronic illness in the US are both familiar and modifiable: poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking.1 But while the trajectory of these diseases can be altered with lifestyle changes, patients often need more guidance than a primary care clinician is able to offer.

We all know how time consuming it can be to establish and follow through on a plan to eliminate bad habits and engage in better nutrition and exercise—let alone manage condition-specific symptoms. The process is complex and can be overwhelming—not only for the patient, but for the practitioner as well. Patients require education, encouragement, and accountability in order to make sustainable changes in their lives.

That’s where health coaching comes in. Health coaches help practitioners take their patients on a path toward wellness. Working alongside a clinician, health coaches advise and motivate patients to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and manage chronic conditions by providing them with tools and support to navigate when times get rough.

In the following IFM video, Lisa Portera-Perry, DC, talks about some of the potential benefits of using a health coach when starting a Functional Medicine practice. Dr. Portera-Perry is a strong advocate for a collaborative care team approach to improve patient outcomes, and she uses a variety of Functional Medicine and lifestyle/mind-body medicine tools to empower her patients to more deeply engage in their healing journeys.

Dr. Portera-Perry is an adjunct clinical faculty member of Bastyr University’s teaching clinic in San Diego, CA, as an integrative doctor of chiropractic.

Health coaches can help simplify wellness by educating patients on the power of whole foods and physical activity, and act as encouraging guides. An active communication framework involving dissemination of diet- and exercise-related health information and structured goal setting appears promising in the management of chronic disease.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic diseases in America. Published April 15, 2019. Accessed August 28, 2019.


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