Health Coaches in Medical Practice

adapted and republished from 05/31/15 

I love my job!  I love you guys too.  It is so nice to be working in an industry with such potential to change lives in such a huge way.

A couple of years ago, health coaches were struggling to justify their existence.

Things have changed.

The wellness industry needs health coaches.  I happen to know a lot of health coaches who are ready and willing to work.

Health Coaches are growing their businesses as well as doctors, registered dietitians, and all in the wellness industry.

Health Coaches not only provide proactive lifestyle support; they also can help to keep patients on track with doctor’s instructions.

Everyone in the wellness industry is working together now in ways that are beneficial to all.

We began finding jobs for health coaches and gradually evolved to teaching coaches how to do business and find customers on their own.

The church I go to still has doughnut Sundays.  Our assistant pastor got up in his sermon last week with a can of beer, a canister of whipped cream and a can of coca-cola, and empty water bottle …………and you aren’t going to believe this…….a jar of green smoothie!  He poured the whipped cream, cola and whipped cream into the bottle and compared filling your body with bad stuff…was just like filling your soul with bad things.  He pulled out the green smoothie and said…it doesn’t taste great…but after 1 1/2 months, he craved it.  It made him feel good.  That is the same thing that happens when you feed your soul with good things.

I used to take my green juice to church meetings while everyone else drank colas and ate Cheetos, I drank my green juice and they all laughed at me.  Things have changed, and if my church can move forward, we all can.

Health coaches in private practice

with doctors or dietitians

Maybe you’ve been considering it, or maybe this will introduce you to the idea of employing and/or partnering with health coaches in your business. 

A health coach:

  • will be your patients’ advocate.
  • goal set
  • follow up
  • instruct and assist in making lifestyle choices that increase quality of life for your patient
  • Small behavioral changes

We have over 600 health coaches and access to 1000’s more who want to work.

Health coaches in private practice


A Health Coach Can Work in Your Office as an Employee

There are benefits to using an in office health coach:

  1. You retain control
  2. Ease of communication
  3. Additional options to utilize an extra set of hands or eyes
  4. Ability to combine appointments
  5. Document sharing is easier
  6. Ease of insurance administration
  7. Ability to offer internships to health coaches

Off-Site as a Contractor

There are also benefits to using a health coach off site:

  1. No space requirements
  2. Independent contractor (no taxes)
  3. Less administration
  4. More diverse time offerings to patients
  5. Many patients are more open and honest on calls
  6. May use health coach’s programs (no investment)

Our health coaches know scope of practice boundaries and understand the conditions and rules associated with working as a health coach with physician’s patients.  

Our certified health coaches have studied and passed a test assuring us that they understand and can apply the following concepts in situations that require critical thinking and discernment.

“Health Coaches can provide the instruction, the tools, the information, the facilitation of behavior change and of information exchange that leads to the creation of health instead of the suppression of symptoms or disease.”

Dr. Mark Hyman

Benefits for everyone

Practitioner – Health Coach – Patient

 Studies show that doctors with health coaches have added additional income to their practices as well as added value to their patients.

Having a health coach partnership:

  • Cuts your workload by relieving you of time consuming work
  • Adds to income
  • Develops a bridge between you and your patient making sure they understand and follow instructions
  • Will gain access to day to day progress of the patient (see diet, exercise, habits, etc.)
  • Adds to your reputation and provides a competitive advantage by providing additional services that fill the needs of the client
  • Provides additional flow of revenue

Your practice will have healthier patients overall and you will have more time…all at no risk to you!

Benefits to Your Patients

Your patients who use your health coach will:

  • Set and accomplish goals in a way that is empowering and exciting
  • Have more time spent on their issues
  • Have a checks and balances understanding of “doctor’s orders” – less chance for patient error
  • Happier patients
  • Increase trust
  • Better health outcome

What it looks like

Who to refer

Your patients who use your health coach may include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Asthma
  • Behavioral health issues
  • Chronic pulmonary disease
  • Hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Or many other chronic disease

How it Works

Do it Yourself, We’ll Set You Up

There are several ways to work with a health coach. It will depend on your needs and financial considerations.

  • In the office as an employee.
  • Off site as a subcontractor.
  • Independently with their online wellness and weight loss programs.
  • Independently with physician online wellness and weight loss programs.
  • Or
  • With us


    Number of Coaches

    Number of Patients

    This is all relative to your practice and the coach’s duties.  The numbers here are general.

    Number of Patients per Health Coach:

    70-100 patients each, with one on one meeting

    0 – 2000 patients each, in online group coaching

    If you have patients with more complex problems, the numbers may be lower.

    Breaking your patients into groups by disease works for most programs, there are others that don’t require that.

      It can be easy

      Help Your Patients to Help Themselves

      Many patients leave their visit not understanding the instructions or even the diagnosis of their physician.  They don’t know what to do and either don’t do anything or do the wrong thing.

      Health coaches help the patients by supporting the doctor’s orders and helping the patient to develop an action plan. Health coaching programs with a set itinerary, are set up to let the patient participate in their own care and build on their successes in lifestyle change.

      Medical care practices benefit by adding a health coaching program.

      We help by providing access to trained health coaches ready to participate and facilitate your programs.  They are ready to immediately implement wellness program and track your patients progress then report back to you.

      When the patient is referred, they are greeted by the coach with an on-boarding appointment.  At this appointment the coach will go over the health history and the doctor’s notes with the patient.

      Health coaching continues as long as they need it and they may continue with the program that is administered online and in a group for peer support.

      All of our coaches have been certified to work with your patients.  The doctor has access to the training materials as well as the program so that any customizations to the program can be made.



      Health Coaches are Trained to Know How to Work With You

      • Important Concepts
      • Chronic Care Model
      • Self-Management System (SMS)
      • Patient-Centered Coaching
      • Patient Education
      • HIPAA and Patient Privacy
      • Accountable Care Organization
      • Disease Registry
      • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
      • Appreciative Inquiry
      • Roles, Duties, and Responsibilities
      • Health Coach Schedule Example
      • Role Limitations
      • Communication
      • Other Terms & Concepts
      • Patient Self-Assessment
      • Health Coach Impact
      • How to make assessments
      • How to record results and assessment


      Cover Virtually Anything

      Programs include but are not limited to:

      1. Nutrition
      2. Fitness
      3. Sleep
      4. Natural Health
      5. Aging
      6. Full Lifestyle Holistic Programs
      7. Weight-loss

      One coaching program could include:

      • A 12-week weight loss program
      • 2 levels of programming content:
      • a facilitation guide for health coaches to administer the program
      • client materials
      • Socratic method for teaching – worksheets/activities for clients to have “aha” moments
      • Possible meal planning upsell  
      • Program delivery
      • The ability to customize for viewpoints on nutrition while still emphasizing bio-individual beliefs


      Your Health Coaching Program

       Health coaches follow up with the patient with reminders, support, and encouragement, as well as periodic assessment.

      The group supports the coaching by example.  The patients who’ve been successful and are more progressed in treatment and lifestyle changes serve as an example for the other patients.

      • Your team will be trained on the program and given implementation/referral procedures.
        • Establish a supervisor on your team
        • Which patients should have a coach
        • Which program is appropriate to your practice
        • Who will refer patients
        • Establish a reporting procedure
      • Workflows are created to implement the program.
      • Number of health coaches needed will be determined.
      • How and how often your coaches will meet with patients

      You may even have the people you need to run the coaching program or to do the coaching who are already on your team. Whether you have the manpower to handle it already, or need to add 1-10 health coaches, we can help.

      It’s a worthwhile endeavor for everyone involved to add health coaching to any practice.  It’s good for you, the coach, and ultimately your patients.


      Lessons in Leadership

      for Health Coaches

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      1. Cathy

        I love that green smoothie-soul analogy your minister made. Wish my parents’ priest would do the same…maybe ey’d start believing what I’m telling them!

        Last month, I started working at an integrative medical centre – the only one in this province – that has a wide variety of modalities available to support the patients according to their needs. As you say, it lightens the (overworked) doctors’ loads immensely. I love that I’m contributing to the new paradigm in medical care.

      2. Lori

        Cathy, my oldest daughter completed a grueling residency last year and is now an official medical doctor. I have introduced her to green smoothies as well as the need to be mindful of food and lifestyle choices. The population of patients that she works with suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. She acknowledges the need for her patients to be better educated so that they can understand the importance of substituting fast/processed food for fruits and vegetables. This would surely have a positive impact on their health and longevity as well as reduce medical costs. Unfortunately, my daughter is an employee of a system that does not allow her enough time for examinations, let alone to go over nutrition, health and lifestyle issues in depth with her patients. Hopefully, hospitals and clinics will begin to realize how important health coaches are to their patients and begin to use their services.

        • Cathy

          Lori, That is exactly why physicians should have health coaches. Her time would be more valuable for the patient with the information the health coach can ascertain. Then, the health coach can follow up, make sure they understand the doctors instructions and are following them. Thanks for sharing that!

      3. Julia

        I hope the tide is shifting to a whole body approach, for people like health coaches to have an incremental role in the medical profession. It seems to me they go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to long term care and goals.

      4. Marian

        I partner with practitioners and it has been amazing for my practice and theirs. I really enjoy working as a team to get our patients healthy and happy. I had to learn to speak their lingo so they understood my role. Once they did, it’s been like magic!

        • Cathy

          I would like to hear more about your experience with this Marian.

      5. april

        i try hard to incorporate a holistic wellness approach (including traditional medicine) in my own life. i love the idea of health coaches working alongside medical doctors to facilitate and ensure total wellness for patients.

      6. Cathy

        Cathy one of the first places I RAN after my cancer diagnosis was to a wholistic nutritionist/health coach. She has been invaluable in immune support and staying healthy, as well as helping me to find the balance between staying active and resting properly. I believe it is key to everything involved with cancer treatment.

        • Cathy

          Cathy, VERY smart move. Oncologists would benefit as much if not more than any other type of doctor to have a health coach. Thanks for sharing that.

      7. Nicole @ Refreshed Life Nutrition

        I have yet to see any mainstream doctors team up with health coaches but would love to see that in the future in my city! I definitely think both schools of thought have a place and I believe that is the future of medicine 🙂 I love seeing positive results in my clients and my own health through holistic nutrition. Thanks for the positive article!

        • Cathy

          Hi Nicole,

          It is happening. There are coaches working with doctors. It would be nice if all doctors had more than one health coach. We have several different ways that it is proven to succeed.

      8. Sue Johnson

        Isn’t it wonderful when someone starts to make healthier changes for the better? Doctors teaming up with health coaches is great, because health coaches can work with the patients to implement doctor’s protocols while also helping the patient make simple lifestyle changes that will improve health.

        • Cathy

          Yes Sue! I see such potential for overall change in the health care system and the lives of others. We are here and ready!

      9. Johanna

        This is wonderful! I love how your priest used the example of putting bad things in the body vs. good. What a great example for the entire congregation and to see that he used a green smoothie to bring the meaning home is a perfect example of how our work as health coaches is needed, for wellbeing spiritual, mind & body.

        • Cathy

          Yes! It about knocked me out of my pew! The congregation was more worried about wasting the beer for sure…all I could think was “don’t pour that good smoothie in that container without rinsing it first”! It is a step in the right direction.

      10. Michelle

        In my experience, doctors NEED you health coaches! Badly. I sincerely hope that this is the wave of the future.

        • Cathy

          Thanks Michelle!

      11. Cynthia Djengue

        Thanks for the props to us Health Coaches! We are CERTIFIED! I showed my certification to my naturopathic doctor friend as she didn’t realize that we are actually board certified. I am proud to have received this certification and being able to use my Coaching to help others. Thanks for showing others all the great benefits.

      12. Mary

        My PCP’s physician’s assistant told me at my last wellness checkup that she is going to start referring patients to me. I really think it is because she and my doctor see how much weight my husband and I have lost and how his numbers have changed. He went from being borderline diabetic to having really good blood work results on everything.

        I really think that once physicians see the kind of results health coaches can help their patients achieve, they will start referring their patients to us instead of drug companies.

        • Cathy

          Good for you Mary. It is a lot easier if you have proof of results…and it sure sounds like you have them!

      13. Patti Rugg

        This is a great blog on the little wave that began 30+ years ago. The little wave is becoming a much bigger wave in Western Traditional Medicine. It took 16 years for my Internal Medicine Physician to say AHA… to natural healthy eating can lower your cholesterol, triglycerides and sugar. Seeing is believing. By walking the talk we are turning heads in the right direction – one step at a time!

        • Cathy

          Thanks Patti, I know you are right in the thick of it and positioned perfectly. I know you will be a part of the intensity the movement feels in the next few years.

      14. farah

        yes!!! Loving this post. It’s like when you see someone with a green smoothie thers this instant rapport, versus those with the coke!! As a health coach too, specialising in healthy ageing and fat loss, it’s fantastic to know some doctors would appreciate this service, so its out job to go out there and let them know its available!

      15. Sofia

        YES! As someone struggling with weight issues since forever, this is kind of long overdue but I am so glad that someone’s finally doing it. Thank you. I hope the world will take after! <3

      16. Kimberly

        I presented today to a group of pediatricians about the power a health coach could have with their patients. They have interest in bringing me in, but have several questions on the logistics of how to make this happen.Is there anyone who can offer references or connections on how to bill for a health coach or someone that can share how this works in their office. Any suggestions are appreciated.

      17. Danielle

        My husband has Resistant Hypertension and his cardiologist told him to go on a plant based diet and sent him home with 5 medications. There was no plan, no follow-up and no transition to a vegan diet which is not the easiest thing to do for a 46-year-old man. As a coach, I have been able to bridge the gap between his lifestyle and his doctor and at his last appointment on Friday his blood pressure was down 55 mercury points. It was my husbands case that showed me that true need for health coaches in a physician practice. However, to Kimberly’s point, can someone show how it’s billed in a physician’s practice. I wanted the doctor to pay for it but I need to show how it can free him up to see additional patients and make more money.

        • Christy Berding

          Hi Danielle,
          I don’t know if you’ll see this but I’m just entering the field and was wondering if you ad found anymore information on this? Like you and Kimberly, I’m looking for the same guidance on how the billing works with a doctors office. Any help or advice would be great! Thank you!

      18. Amy

        Hello, I am a health coach working in a functional medicine clinic. They are trying to figure out how to incorporate my services, how to charge patients and pay me. I would love to know how this, or if this, works for any other coaches. I’m currently being paid and acting as, a front desk receptionist. This is not working for me.

        • Cathy

          Hi Amy,

          Read the section above called “help patients help themselves”.


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