The healthcare system can be overwhelming for patients, particularly for those with many chronic conditions, elevated health risks or the elderly. It can be confusing to remember what instructions a doctor gave, why you are still taking a particular medication or when you should get your first colonoscopy.
This is why the number of population health coaches is growing in Kentucky. Population health coaches help patients achieve better quality of care and outcomes, and assist with navigating the healthcare system.
What is a population health coach? A population health coach is a registered nurse, and many are based in doctor’s offices. They talk to patients both in person, as well as over the phone and serve as a liaison and helper between the doctors, patients, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. They don’t replace doctors, but assist them and their patients.
Population health coaches help patients better understand how to stay healthy or get healthy, which medications are appropriate, and what foods to eat or avoid for their conditions. They help improve blood sugar, blood pressure, manage stress better and help patients understand how to properly take medications. They are medical professionals that patients can turn to after they leave a doctor’s appointment and later realize they have questions or need clarification.
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Population health coaches are also connected to many great health resources that can help improve patient outcomes.
One example of how a population health coach can help is by assisting in the management of medications. For patients with multiple health concerns who see a variety of physicians, medication management can be overwhelming. They may not be sure why they are on certain medications or the possible side effects.
A population health coach can review all medications to avoid unnecessary prescriptions and potentially hazardous interactions. Population health coaches can also work with outpatient-care coordinators for in-home visits and other care needs.
Who can be served by a population health nurse? For some patients, it is a free benefit, though it depends on your insurance coverage and your risk factors. Many Medicare patients will be covered. Some insurance companies choose to cover their low-risk subscribers to ensure they are getting the preventive care they need. Check with your doctor to find out if you might be eligible.
For those patients whose insurance covers the service and are interested, a population health coach can help them on their health and wellness journey. A population health coach can help simplify the healthcare process, improve outcomes and ensure quality of care.
Pam Thompson, RN, Population Health Coach, KentuckyOne Health