We are looking for dedicated professionals to do specific jobs. Consider hiring contractors for repair work on your home. Whether you’ve hired them at previous jobs, been referred to you, been included in a home insurance plan, or read their reviews online, you generally trust that these dedicated professionals are adept at what they do and will seek out specific services.
Imagine you are in your customer’s place for a minute. When it comes to their health and wellness, they will not seek the support of their dentist for a skin problem diagnosis, nutritional evaluation, or fitness plan.
As a health and wellness coach, you have a moral and legal responsibility to know the scope of your practice.
When your client is looking for support for something outside of your practice, you can help them navigate the healthcare system so they can get the support they need.
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when the support your client is asking for is outside of your practice and how to help them find the support they are looking for. Here, we give you a reminder of the role of a health and wellness coach, how to determine when you need to refer them to other health professionals, and how to guide them in finding the additional support they may need.
Reminder: the role of a health and wellness coach
Health and wellness coaches They are professionals, on both an individual and team level, who facilitate conversations and enable clients to set and achieve goals. They have unique skills that combine psychology with behavioral change theory and life coaching, as well as an understanding of the healthcare industry in general.
Health and wellness coaches have gained incredible traction in the past several years, such as Research has shown How their skills can be leveraged to bridge the gap between traditional health care options and behavioral changes.
When to refer your client to another healthcare professional
You may refer the client to another healthcare professional in any of the following situations:
- Their needs are outside the scope of your practice. if they are seeking a diagnosis; Medication recommendations or you have determined that they have physical, emotional, or complications mental health needs If you are not equipped or legally allowed to support them, it is important to suggest a referral to another health professional or they are seeking someone else’s support.
- They have come to you to ask for your support in finding professionals who meet their needs. In this case, they see you as someone who will help them navigate the waters of the healthcare and insurance industries and possibly alternative options.
- You are having difficulties meeting their needs. In that case, you can refer them to another health coach. If you are having trouble building a positive and constructive relationship with the client, you may want to suggest that they find someone else and be clear that you think you are not the right professional to meet their needs at this time. Here are some tips to deliver this to them.
How health coaches can support their clients’ healthcare journey
Once you have determined that some of your client’s health needs cannot be met within your scope of practice, what role can you continue to play in your client’s healthcare journey?
The role of a health coach becomes just as, if not more, important after your client seeks support from other health professionals.
Depending on your personal interests, abilities, complementary training, and relationship with your client and other health providers, you may take on one or several roles in your client’s healthcare experience and journey. The potential roles you can take, which we explain below, can change between clients and throughout your career, but it helps to understand how you play into the greater experience your client may have with health providers.
Integrative support role
Integrative support, or the role of the common thread, is the most popular role of a health and wellness coach.
In this role, you guide your client so that they gain a greater awareness of the different practices that affect their wellness, and you support them in adopting the practices they want to include in their lives with the goal of improving their health and well-being.
Helping clients understand, evaluate, and implement recommendations from other health professionals may be part of this integrative support role.
Additionally, you can help your client find the common threads between all of their health and wellness practices. When your client expresses a desire to adopt different health and wellness practices and has clarified and is ready to implement them, you can leverage your knowledge and tools to set flexible, realistic and enabling goals and schedule.
The role of the missing piece of the puzzle
Your client may have come to you because they were referred to you by a friend of your client or another health professional. In this role, you take on the role of “The Missing Piece of the Puzzle”.
Those who refer clients to you often believe that you will be the key to helping them understand, establish and implement recommendations from other medical professionals, and will support them in Finding the best way forward. This may include setting goals, supporting them to try new things or checking out their own experience.
The role of the explorer
Think back to the example at the beginning about the different specialists you might look for. If you want to do a major renovation of your home and don’t know where to start, you can seek the support of a project manager who will take the time to understand what you want your renovation project to look like and can determine which contractors are right for your business. They may be able to support you throughout the entire process.
Just like a renovation project manager helping his clients navigate the waters of design and contracting, health and wellness coaches may take on the role of navigator for their clients. In this role, your client has expressed their need to identify a specialist who can meet their other health needs or that you understand that their need is outside your practice.
If you feel comfortable and confident in the role of a navigator, and your client has asked for their support in finding other healthcare providers that meet their health needs and budget or insurance constraints, work with your client to gain a better understanding of:
- their health history
- their healthcare needs
- Other healthcare professionals who have appointments with them
- Their insurance plan and network
- Direct consultation with doctors and surrogates, if your client does not have insurance
Along the way, explain to your client why you recommend certain professionals and help them understand their insurance plan and healthcare system.
If you have the knowledge, you may want to share what you expect in terms of costs and appointments with the professionals, and you may want to work with your client on how to ask key questions, express their concerns and desires, and be their attorney.
If you don’t feel confident in the navigator role, don’t worry. It can take many years of experience and networks to develop relationships with trusted and other talented healthcare professionals and the knowledge necessary to navigate insurance policies and a complex healthcare system. If so, it is important to be honest with your customer about your limitations. Then, you can ask your client for some time to research other health professionals, their insurance policy, and potential support avenues. If your customer agrees, be sure to proceed.
A reminder of the power of multidisciplinary health teams
No professional can meet everyone’s needs. While it is normal for individuals to seek the support of several professionals who have no contact with each other, when it comes to someone’s health, it can be a missed opportunity to gain a more comprehensive understanding of one’s health and wellness journey.
Health and wellness coaches are are increasingly being included In multidisciplinary healthcare teams as ways to improve patient outcomes and overall wellness.
Research has shown the amazing power of multidisciplinary healthcare teams. As mentioned in a research paper Published by the University of Auckland School of Medicine and Health Sciences, “Recent evidence suggests that improvement in teamwork in health care can lead to significant gains in patient safety, measured against efficiency of care and the rate of complications and mortality. Interventions to improve teamwork in health care may be advances. The next major in patient outcomes.”
Researchers Suggest the following seven actions that help overcome barriers to team communication in healthcare:
- Teaching effective communication strategies
- Training teams together
- Training teams using simulation and modeling, including case studies
- Define cross-cutting teams as a cohesive unit with common goals
- Forming Democratic Teams
- Support teamwork with protocols and procedures
- Develop an organizational culture and support healthcare teams
If you currently work in a multidisciplinary team or hope to do so, you can consider these suggestions as best practices for healthcare professionals to work together.
When health and wellness coaches have a deep understanding of their scope of practice and their role in their clients’ healthcare journey, they can have an empowering role in clients’ lives. In some cases, empowering clients may mean referring them to other health professionals.
Knowing when to refer clients to other health professionals helps clients take control of their personal vision of health and wellness and make the most of the tools that can help them get the best care.