What does it take to be a “good” health coach?
By nature, most health coaches work directly with clients who are looking for support from a professional to implement lifestyle changes that aim to improve their health and wellbeing.
Your clients are people with history, beliefs, values, culture, and knowledge. As such, it is just as important for health coaches to develop social and interpersonal qualities and abilities as it is for them to develop a deep understanding of the science of illness, wellness, and health.
When health coaches do not take on the qualities that their clients consider important for their coaches to have, it can impact their relationships with their clients and affect the clients’ ability or willingness to implement plans.
What are the most common qualities people look for in health coaches? How do these qualities influence client satisfaction and their adherence to health treatment plans?
Here are the five qualities that people look for in health professionals, including health and wellness coaches.
5 Qualities of High-Quality Health Coaches, According to Clients
Clients greatly appreciate the ability to see their health coaches on short notice. They also value short wait times and having their calls returned. All of these elements are related to the access a person has to their health and wellness coaches when they need it most. The availability of a health coach should be a stark contrast to wait times in health systems, where people often have to wait up to two months for an appointment with their doctors.
When appointments aren’t available, clients appreciate being able to get in touch with their health coach by phone, email, or text to answer questions and express concerns.
What this means for health coaches: Keep communication lines open with the clients you work with. Make it clear to them when and how they can get in touch with you if they have questions about their health goals.
Outstanding Communication Skills
Clients greatly value their health coach’s personal attention during and between appointments. They look for coaches who are excellent listeners, give clients their full attention, and take their concerns seriously. They don’t shrug off what clients are feeling and encourage clients and family members to ask questions.
Another element of communication that clients appreciate is when health professionals instill a sense of partnership with the patient by being an active participant in healthcare decision-making and hearing clients when they express opinions and concerns.
Lastly, clients value when their health coaches openly provide information to their clients in a conversational, yet direct, style.
What this means for health coaches: Focus on listening actively, construct solutions together, and openly provide information about their health status and treatment options in a straight-forward, yet conversational, manner.
Personality and Demeanor
Clients value warm, personal qualities in the health coaches they seek out. This includes:
- Friendliness: a good bedside manner, personable, caring, and pleasant
- Humaneness and caring: a sincere outward sense of caring for the patient’s wellbeing and a desire to meet their needs
- Supportive and understanding: showing empathy and putting the client’s interests first
- Trust: Clients feel they can entrust their welfare to the guidance of health professionals. They should feel safe and secure with their health providers.
- Inclusion of family members and children: concern about how the family is doing and attentive to all family members
What this means for health coaches: Show your clients that you genuinely care for their wellbeing by showing them you empathize with their experience and respect their choices. When your client requests it, you can provide information and support to their family members as well.
Quality of Coaching
In addition to valuing several of the personal aspects of the health professional and how they approach clients, people look for health coaches that are technically competent, thorough in their examination and treatment, and work to look at other options to care before recommending medication.
People also value health and wellness coaches who are willing to advocate for their clients with healthcare teams.
What this means for health coaches: Stay up-to-date with the most recent research on your clients’ conditions, and communicate with their primary healthcare providers when they have concerns about their treatment.
After the patient leaves the doctor’s office, the condition is still an issue, even while they receive treatment. Patients, who then become a health coach’s clients, greatly appreciate when their health coach follows up with them and refers them to other health specialists to provide care for all different aspects of their health.
An important part of referring clients to specialized professionals is when health professionals communicate with each other to coordinate care strategies. This gives clients a sense that there is a team working together for their health.
What this means for health coaches: The health coach has an important role in providing a longer-term, consistent presence with people who have concerns with their health. Work to build partnerships with doctors so that you can provide support.
Want to know what other qualities are important for health and wellness coaches to have? Check out this article.
The Role of a Health Coach in a Multidisciplinary Healthcare Team
Research shows that physicians are only able to spend between fifteen and eighteen minutes with each patient during their consultation due to other time pressures. When people feel like they don’t have enough time with their doctors, it negatively impacts patient satisfaction. They leave with unanswered questions, confusion, or a lack of clarity on how to apply health recommendations.
One of the ways to overcome the issues that can arise from a doctor having limited time with their patients is by having them be treated by a multidisciplinary healthcare team that includes a health coach.
Studies show that health coaches help to increase peoples’ trust in primary care providers. Health coaches can help to provide self-management support, bridge the gap between clinician and patient, help clients navigate the healthcare system, offer emotional support, and serve as a continuity figure after the patient has left the hospital or clinic.