Dan Schletty went to work as a health and wellness coach with Riverwood Healthcare Center in February 2013, one month before the North Central Minnesota system spearheaded the launch of a new clinical health-coaching program.
Riverwood operates a 25-bed critical access hospital serving Aitkin County and surrounding communities, with full-service primary care clinics in Aitkin, Garrison and McGregor. Schletty, who this summer completed the on-site Clinical Health Coach training program in Texas, says he already has more than 200 patient referrals from providers alone.
“We launched our coaching program at Riverwood in March,” Schletty says. “Going into it, when I took on my role to start the coaching program, we were starting from scratch. I’ve been to many motivational interviewing trainings in the past. A lot of places give you the techniques, but don’t show you how to implement them in the clinical setting. It was really reassuring to know Riverwood was on the right path.”
Schletty has created a process to set up appointments with patients within a week of their encounters with physicians, and he follows up with providers via electronic patient-progress reports that list the number appointments, established goals and patient outcomes.
Though the healthcare professional had past experience with workflows and care paths, implementing the clinical health-coaching role into Riverwood’s program has given him greater confidence in finding common ground and partnering with patients to work on goals they truly want to set for themselves.
He says the additional listening and communication skills he acquired as part of his participation in the Clinical Health Coach training have been very beneficial, pointing to a series of recent case studies revolving around patients who’ve been motivated to change their health behaviors and practice better self-care.
One of those cases involved the referral of a 67-year-old patient with a sedentary lifestyle. She was obese, pre-diabetic and diagnosed with high-cholesterol. Starting a conversation, Schletty realized that she was having trouble sleeping, so he referred her back to a provider. It turns out the patient has sleep apnea.
Schletty, who started meeting with the patient every week or two, also referred her to Riverwood’s community-based “I CAN Prevent Diabetes” program, which offers education and support to those who are at-risk.
The patient, who started wearing a CPAP machine and attending “I CAN” meetings, lost 50 pounds within six-months and achieved a high level of satisfaction with her new quality of life.
“It saved my life,” she says. “It got me back in contact with people and gave me the incentive and tools to start losing weight. Dan helped me find the sources here in Aitkin that I never knew existed.”
“Across the board we are seeing these types of results,” Schletty says, noting that Riverwood has seen “outstanding results” in health outcomes, patient satisfaction and referrals since its implementation of the clinical health-coaching model.
“The Clinical Health Coach training was extremely valuable in confirming how health coaching closes gaps in care and can be an additional model of care for any organization,” he says. “Now we can really help patients on an individual basis. To educate, motivate and keep them accountable so they can make positive outcomes a reality.
“I would highly recommend this training to any organization as the Clinical Health Coach training was the best I’ve experienced at focusing on relevant, clinical motivational interviewing skills.”
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