The PITTSBURGH-UPMC health plan has received the prestigious American Journal of Health Promotion Award “Papers of the year from 2020” for his “Effects of Referral From Doctors” Results study, the company announced today. The study assessed the effects of leverage on the credibility of the provider “white coat,” as doctors in essence “Prescribed” Health coaching for their patients to improve patient health and better treat diseases.
The study showed a 300 percent increase in patient engagement in health coaching compared to traditional outreach approaches when doctors used the UPMC Health Plan’s Wellness Prescription. This innovative program enables doctors to refer patients to health coaching directly by linking the electronic patient record with the health plan. This unique approach, developed using the 6-sigma process, has been used by 2,000 vendors to help more than 40,000 patients work with health coaches to improve their health, manage their conditions, or make better medical decisions .
“As part of an integrated supply and financial system, UPMC Health Plan can use all the levers at our disposal – from strong supplier relationships to nationally certified and experienced health coaches to digital programs – to help our members improve and improve their health manage chronic diseases, “ said Dr. Michael Parkinson, Senior Medical Director, UPMC Health Plan and Workpartners and the lead author of the paper. “As our study shows, patients trust their doctors and individuals are much more likely to participate in our coaching programs when the doctor mandates education and support as a critical part of the patient’s care plan.”
The paper “Impact of Referral of Physicians to Health Coaching on Patient Loyalty and Health Risks: An Observational Study of the UPMC Prescription for Wellness” was published by a team of colleagues on the UPMC Health Plan: Parkinson, MD, MPH, FACPM; Tracy Hammonds, PhD; Donna Keyser, PhD, MBA; Pamela Peele, PhD; and Jennie R. Wheeler, MBA.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of referring physicians to health coaching over a four-year, retrospective observation period among UPMC health plan members participating in programs offered by health coaches.
Preventable lifestyle diseases, increasingly recognized as a major driver of rising health care costs, are an area where health systems and health insurers are proactively using innovative approaches to optimize the health of their members. Using traditional methods of patient education alone has produced limited results. Health coaching provides education and support for patients to improve their health behaviors, treat chronic diseases, and make better informed decisions. These strategies have been effective in addressing healthcare and cost challenges.
Since 2008, UPMC Health Plan has offered members evidence- and curriculum-based health coaching lifestyle programs free of charge. All lifestyle health coaches in UPMC Insurance Service Division pass a rigorous in-house training program, which is one of the few accredited by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching. The study showed the effects of the integrated recipe for wellness “People, Processes and Technology” Design. It makes efficient use of the provider’s in-office time and clinical know-how and transfers them immediately “Recipes for Coaching” to a health plan health coach and gives the provider timely feedback within 30 days, in which the progress of the patient is noted.
The intervention group consisted of more than 14,400 adult insured members who were referred to health coaching programs by doctors through Prescription for Wellness from July 2014 to June 2018. Patients were three times more likely to prescribe health coaching when prescribed by their doctor with Prescription for Wellness than a matching comparison group of members contacted only through Health Plan Outreach. Among members referred to health coaching through Prescription for Wellness, 80 percent reported improving lifestyle behaviors as diet, physical activity, and smoking cessation, while the remainder were referred for chronic disease management. Overall, patients showed a significant reduction in health risks known to be associated with chronic diseases and increased health care costs.
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