Coaching for Health and Wellbeing in the Digital Era
The cornerstone of Health Coaching is the act of relationship building between the coach and the person or group being coached. A trusting and engaging relationship is built through ensuring that the coaching environment is relaxing, quiet and welcoming, through watching the body language between parties and through the creation of a psychologically safe space where people can openly share emotions and vulnerabilities.
Given that we currently live in the digitisation era, the worry is that the values around Health Coaching including creating and maintaining a deep connecting relationship between parties as well as a safe and relaxing environment for people to share experiences and feelings, may become compromised. In my view, digitisation can not only enhance the coaching experience for everyone involved but also opens up access to the benefits of Health Coaching to more people, especially the ones who would have otherwise disregarded the idea of working with a Health Coach due to feeling too exposed sharing their issues in-person.
Telephone and digital based interventions (online, SMS) or a combination of those, have the advantage of providing access to people in rural and remote areas and for those who have difficulty accessing care. People can also participate in such interventions in their own home and at a time convenient to them, with or without the involvement of loved ones. Health coaching through digital means can be applied in the workplace and for busy professionals and leaders who would not be able to fit sessions into their busy schedules otherwise, enabling them to have a recharging and rewarding experience without leaving the workplace.
Delivering Health Coaching digitally is on the rise for people with chronic conditions including cancer enabling them to benefit from sessions at any stage of their illness, during day-long treatments and at times when staying at home is the safest option for them to avoid the risk of infection. The digital coaching experience can be enhanced with real-time infographic and video-sharing as well as real-time patient reported measures to ensure the accurate and consistent recording of patient progress over time. Coaching interventions can also be delivered in a hybrid fashion, that is a mix of digitally-enabled sessions and face-to-face sessions closer to people’s homes, leveraging community and primary care clinics as well as urgent care centres and pharmacies.
Finally, the principles of Health Coaching including motivational interviewing, behaviour change, positive psychology can be enhanced through giving people choice of how they wish the intervention to be delivered (in-person, telephone, online, SMS or hybrid). People can feel more relaxed and safe engaging in Health Coaching through digital means and in their own environment, whether this is people’s own home, their office or other. In the long-term, digitally-enabled care will help normalise remote Health Coaching delivery and make it a standard of care for patients with cancer and other chronic health conditions. Cancer and other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and mental illness are fundamentally rooted in our lifestyle choices which is where the behavioural change approach of Health Coaching can be instrumental in making people healthier and reducing the demand for acute healthcare.