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Health Coaching Plays Role in the ACO

Patrick T. Buckley, MPA, IHC, for HealthLeaders Media, February 24, 2011

The benefits health coaches bring to physicians and patients are numerous:

  • 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 re-admission to a hospital during the 30 days post-discharge.
  • IHC provides patients with continuity before, during, and after engagement with the health system. It levels out the episodic nature the care process, so that physician-patient interaction time can focus on productive solutions as opposed to re-hashing information in the exam room.
  • IHC strengthens the loyalty of patients and helps to keep them from leaving the system due to fragmented and disjointed care coordination.

A lot of lip service is being given to “patient-centered care” and “consumer-driven healthcare”. As more and more health leaders ponder the organizational, financial, operating and cost management aspects of managing a successful accountable care organization, they need to be careful not to lose sight of the patient’s role in the accountabilty partnership. Because the chances are good that the ACO’s that get patients to actually make the lifestyle changes will be the ones that thrive.


Patrick T. Buckley is President and CEO of PB Healthcare Business Solutions LLC, located in Milwaukee, WI. He is the author of The Complete Guide To Hospital Marketing and Physician Entrepreneurs: A Marketing Toolkit (both published by HCPRO).

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