Primary Care News

Tobias Alpsten, iPLATO: The benefits of health coaching


The prevalence of long term health conditions is on the increase, with latest figures showing that there are now 4 million people in the UK diagnosed and living with diabetes alone. Patients suffering from long-term conditions struggle to manage their disease effectively and yo-yo in and out of hospital and GP settings, accounting for 50 per cent of all GP appointments and 70 per cent of all inpatient bed days. At a time when the NHS is under mounting pressure in the wake of rising demand, it is becoming increasingly clear that the need to introduce new and innovative models of care is intensifying.

Technology has become essential to the way we live our life, smartphones usage is prevalent, in fact 76% of the over 50s own a mobile phone.  The internet is just a touch away and healthcare providers need to recognise the role technology plays in enabling and facilitating self-care. Clinicians cannot meet every need of their patients with chronic conditions, so we need to educate patients in self-care, in order to relocate staff to where they are needed the most.

One of the solutions that is proving effective is clinical health coaching. Health coaching is a relatively new concept for the NHS, though it is well-established in other parts of the world where data shows it to be a highly-effective model of care.

Delivered at a time and place convenient to patients, it can provide an increased sense of control by eliminating some of the barriers and intimidations that are often present during physical interactions with healthcare staff, resulting in higher levels of patient engagement and better outcomes.

This year, in a trial programme with NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group those patients supported by Health Navigator’s proactive Health Coaching had 20-40% fewer non-elective admissions and 20-40% fewer A&E attendances. By supporting patients with weekly coaching calls from NHS nurses, the randomised control trial is already showing high levels of improved patient experience, a reduction in attendances at A&E and fewer admissions to hospital.

The results also provide evidence of relevance, spread and replicability, with the initiative being easy to imitate nationally. And, crucially, it also provides the ability to be scaled up to cover a wider range of health conditions.

Looking forward, the vision is to build on proposals to ‘liberate’ the NHS by putting patients at the centre of decision making about their own care, enabling them to have more control over their condition and therefore co-creating better outcomes for them and for wider health and care systems.

With recent figures showing the number of people with long-term conditions is predicted to rise to 2.9 million by 2018, it’s clear there needs to be a much greater sense of urgency as to how we’re going to deal with managing this issue, not only in financial terms but the impact on individual patients. We need to work collaboratively and appreciate that digital patient-facing technology and innovative health care delivery models may well be the answer to saving our much-loved NHS.

By Tobias Alpsten, CEO of Health Tech Specialist iPLATO