What is a health coach?
A health coach is someone with expertise in wellness who assists people achieve good health by being a mentor and educator on lifestyle and nutritional changes. It is important to understand that health coaching is not only about nutrition, but instead, health coaches offer people a holistic approach to creating and sustaining healthy habits.
Many people today are turning to health coaches to help get rid of bad habits and adopt a more positive lifestyle. A large part of this new lifestyle is the adoption of a healthy diet. That is why the demand for healthcare coaches with the necessary certification and qualification is increasing, along with many opportunities for people interested in this profession to acquire the knowledge they need to ensure optimum service to clients.
While health coaching is frequently available through corporate wellness programs and referrals from healthcare providers, today, pharmacists have also started to partner up with health coaches to make their services more accessible for the general public.
People frequently interact with pharmacists, especially when they have chronic disorders like high blood pressure, arthritis, hyperlipidemia, diabetes etc. Pharmacists are fully aware of the importance of wellness and diet and often make referrals to a health coach for the patient’s benefit. This is because pharmacists can only educate the patient on the importance of medication compliance and the importance of the treatment, but healthcare coaches provide a different kind of assistance. They can help people develop fitness goals and identify the path to achieve those goals, and sustain them in the long run.
How can pharmacists partner with health coaches?
The prevalence of chronic disease continues to increase, but most people now realize that prescription medications are only one part of treatment for many of these diseases. Many health conditions also require a change in lifestyle and better nutrition to either stop the progression of the disease or to reverse it. Hence, partnering with a health coach can be of immense value to such patients. For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, a health coach can help you develop a diet that helps control your blood sugar level and even reverse the condition.
Health coaches can also make recommendations for lifestyle changes to help you lose weight, reduce your blood pressure and decrease your cholesterol levels. Many times, these changes in diet and activity levels can reduce or eliminate the need for medication. Therefore, a collaboration between pharmacists and health coaches can be quite beneficial for patients and can help improve patient outcomes.
In particular, an efficient partnership between pharmacists and health coaches can provide the following benefits:
1. Offer supplements and natural products: While pharmacists have in-depth knowledge of prescription medications, they may not be familiar with natural or homeopathic products that can enhance health. There is a large demographic that prefers to use alternative therapies. A health coach can advise on the best natural or homeopathic products to offer patients interested in natural/holistic solutions.
2. Referrals: By collaborating with a health coach, the pharmacist can develop a referral source for patients with type 2 diabetes, obesity, gout, arthritis, hyperlipidemia, nutrient deficiency (e.g. iron deficiency), and in return, the health coach can refer patients who need prescription medications or alternative supplements.
3. Collaborate on wellness programs: Pharmacists regularly see patients with various medical problems, including celiac disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. By referring these patients to a health coach, the pharmacist can be assured that they will get the right nutritional advice and coaching on living a healthy lifestyle. Treatments may vary from the use of alternative therapies and the importance of adequate sleep.
4. Establish a weight loss program: Exercise is an integral part of wellness programs. Not only does exercise help maintain fitness, but it can also help people lose weight. Health coaches can help develop a nutrition plan and an exercise regime, which can be accompanied by regular weigh-ins at the pharmacy.
5. Mental health services: While a health coach isn’t a qualified psychologist or mental health counselor, they are fully aware of the link between physical and mental health. They can offer advice to clients on managing stress, anxiety, and depression and recommend alternative approaches to stress management such as yoga, tai chi, deep breathing exercise, or spiritualism.
How a pharmacist-health-coach partnership can benefit patients
Pharmacists are busy professionals and have to cater to hundreds of patients daily. They often do not have time for one-on-one patient management. At the most, a pharmacist can educate the patient on how to use a medication, its potential adverse effects, the importance of medication compliance etc. But the management of chronic disorders requires multidisciplinary care. When patients are left on their own to manage the disease, they may not be motivated to change their lifestyles. A health coach can fill the gap. Therefore collaboration with a health coach can support the role of the pharmacist. A health coach can also motivate patients and help them make reasonable goals that are practical and achievable.