1. Can you tell us what health-coaching is?
Health-coaching is a skill that can be learnt and brings together, clinical knowledge, behaviour change science (motivational interviewing, CBT etc) and techniques for patients to fully participate in their healthcare. The aim of coaching is for people to gain confidence to think well for themselves in order to improve self-management, which is vital in any long-term condition.
2. Why might a health coaching approach be appropriate/beneficial for patients with MSK conditions?
The traditional ‘medical model’ of healthcare does little to address the issues of those living with persistent MSK pain. Sadly, self-management is often only advocated as a last resort, when ‘medicine’ has failed.
Health-coaching skills tap into the resourcefulness of the person with the MSK condition to understand and accept the significant contribution they can make, from the outset.
People who are more ‘activated’ (knowledgeable, skilful and confident to self-manage) partner in their care and report a better QoL. A coaching approach is ideal to increase ‘activation’ and puts the patient firmly in the driving seat (as much as they are able).
3. How does this approach benefit the HCP?
With increasing demands and dwindling resources, providing healthcare in the way that we have done, is not an option. Activated patients, partner in their care and take more responsibility for their health. In this way, the burden on the health service and the practitioners working in it, is eased. One ‘penny-drop’ moment that has sustained me working in the NHS, is the realisation that, ‘It’s not all about me!’ My job now is more about coaching patients to find their own ability-to-respond to their health condition. In my view, this is not about cost effectiveness – it’s always been the right (and most rewarding) thing to do.
4. This all sounds great, but I’m a GP and only have a ten minute appointment with my patients – how can I adopt this approach in my practice?
Health coaching cannot be about doing more in an already stretched consultation. Rather, it is a way of being, that skilfully encourages more active participation from our patients. It might feel quicker just to tell or advise people on lifestyle changes, but that just increases dependency on you and the system. More importantly, it misses the best and most sustainable solutions, that people can come up with for themselves.
Dr Tim Williams is a GP, community pain specialist and professional Time to Think life-coach, based in Sheffield. He is co-director of Peak Health Coaching Ltd, which trains HCPs in health-coaching and author of ‘Don’t Just STOPIT.DOIT’ – a coaching book for patients and professionals alike..
Peak Health Coaching are Insignia Health’s preferred training provider, in the UK, for the Patient Activation Measure (PAM®).