Barbara Asimakopoulou, HR Expert, Business and Executive Coach (firstname.lastname@example.org, Managing Partner at Human Resources Expertise, Athens, Greece. MBA, ACC
Dr. Katerina Hurd, Medical Ethicist,Madison, Wisconsin, USA, Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences, Oakland University, Rochester , Michigan, M.S. Medical Physics, University of Surrey, UK
The sharp increase in health care costs can be considered the environment that fosters the maturation of the health coaching concept.
In the last decades the costs of health care escalated and posed a threat to the viability of companies and businesses.
Many companies used the rise in health care as an excuse to freeze hiring or to discriminate arbitrarily when they thought that a prospective employee might be a liability because of their health condition.
Companies that are aware that their most important asset is human potential will take care of their employee’s health because employee health correlates with productivity.
Furthermore, companies that would like to maintain the health of their employees without taking on excessive financial burden would benefit by incorporating a health coach in their management staff.
Who is the health coach?
The health coach is an individual hired by a company who focuses on maintaining a healthy working environment. By applying coaching techniques individualized to the specific health needs of an employee, costs to the company would be limited. In addition they advise the employer which health care plan is optimal for the company. A health coach usually recommends a health insurance plan.
Coaching, according to the International Coach Federation, is a partnership between the coach and the client- coachee engaged in a thought-provoking and creative process that focuses on inspiring the client to maximize their personal or professional abilities.The employee becomes aware that when the employee becomes informed of his/her physical, psychological and emotional well being then it becomes obvious of the control in making decisions for his/her well being.
The health coach must be aware of the working environment and the health issues or matters that arise from it. The health coach is certified and accredited by the International Coaching Federation in ACC or PCC level.
The health coach must be informed with the latest in preventive services and medical advances that are included in a standard of care.
The health coach represents the company that supports the employee in times of hospitalization, thus, demonstrating that the company appreciates his years of experience, years of negotiations and multitasking skills. The employee does not experience that his health is moralized and his disease is condemned by the company.
After all the financial health of a company is reflected in its healthy employees.
The health coach might be perceived as the business response to the business of health care. For skeptics who questioning and comparing the value of the company’s health coach with established wellness groups, the answer might be surprisingly easy to obtain: An anonymous employee survey, asking 1. What do you want your healthcare coverage plan to include? 2. Is your definition of health aligned with the policies of your company?
The preventative care and the coordination of medical care during hospitalization exemplifies that the health coach might be considered as the business response to the business of health care. The first advantage that stems from the partnership of the health coach and employees is the identification of risk factors that are linked to the work environment, predominantly a sedentary life style that promotes a high fat diet, lack of exercise and smoking habits. In order to restore physical activities to counteract the sedentary life style a healthy diet to counteract the chronic ramifications of obesity, cessation of smoking to prevent the manifestation of chronic diseases, the health coach supports the importance of preventative care, limits hospitalization time that reflect a decline in health care costs of the company. In times of hospitalization, the health coach informs the patient/employee about his diagnosis and prognosis. The informed patient is welcome by the physician since he represents the current model of health care that is a patient centered care.
A patient/employee is not stressed knowing that the health coach unlike his family members retains his objectivity in the coordinated care of the patient/employee. The coordination of care is initiated by the avoidance of repetitive and unnecessary duplication of lab tests and x-rays, since the electronic health records, despite the efforts of physicians, nurses and information technologists have not yet been satisfactory. Thus, while the patient is spared from being subjected to unnecessary tests or x-rays, the company’s health coach saves medical bills charged to the company.
In times of anxiety, for example, the arrival of a new born, the health coach supports a short time leave of the employee in order for him to become familiarized with the new member of the family and comfort the mother of the newborn. Other examples that might contribute to increase levels of stress for the employee is times of celebration of the graduation of a family member or time to grieve the loss of a loved one.
In the USA there are companies that have already adapted and acted on the concept of health coach, such as Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, Kelloggs and Apple. Companies such as GM give paternity leave to the new fathers. No male employee has taken this paternity leave. The absence of the father of the new born results in resentment and studies have shown that a resentful employee is not a productive employee. Resentment might also lead to a variety of physiological or psychological diseases.
The employ must feel secure. The sense of security must be given by the perception of employment as a social blanket that comforts health as a social good. The benefits are that the more secure the employee feels, the more productive and creative he might be in the context of his company. An additional advantage of engaging into a partnership with the company’s health coach and not a health information technologist was communicated by e-mail between Katerina Hurd and Steve Lopez, the director of the department of information technology of Solaris Health Care. The health coach is not limited by financial conflicts of interest, because both the health coach and the employee share the same employer. In addition, the health coach can always terminate his contract with the company.
If companies want to invest in their human potential in terms of their creativity, productivity and innovation, they have to pay attention to the health coach and not only to the health information technologist.
Beyond health issues
Health is not only a social good. It reflects an economical aspect especially in countries where moralizing or demobilizing health leads to employment or unemployment.
If we believe that a healthy working environment is built by healthy employees, then the practice of health coaching reflects the financial beating heart of the company.
In other words, the health coach represents the doctor who manages the financial health of both the company and its employees.
How Companies Try to Curb Health Care Costs, Barbara Ficarra, KevinMD.comblog/2011/12
Take Charge of Your Health Care Quality and Costs, Stephen C. Schimpff, KevinMD.comblog/2012/04
Engaging Employees to Improve Patient Satisfaction, Donald Tex Bryant, KevinMD.comblog/2012/03
US Health Insurance Cost Rise Sharply, Study Finds, Reed Abelson, New York Times, Sept. 27, 2011.
Many Medical Decissions Require Sahred Decision Making, Kevin Pho, MD, USA Today, April 1, 2012.
Where Do Our Wasted Health Dollars Go to? Roy Benaroch, MD, kevinmd.com, 4/30/12.
Can Health Coaches Help Fix our Health Care System? by Monique Brouillette, kevinmd.com/blog/2011/07
Addressing the security risks of healthcare IT, Steve Lorenz, kevinmd.com/blog/2012/03
An Insuranc eMaze for U.S. Doctors, Pauline W. Chen, MD, well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/25
Friendly Workpalce Linked to Longer Life, Anahad O’connor, weel.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/05