How effective is health coaching in reducing health services expenditures?

Med Care. 2015 Feb;53(2):133-40. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000287.


Background: Health coaching interventions aim to identify high-risk enrollees and encourage them to play a more proactive role in improving their health, improve their ability to navigate the health care system, and reduce costs.

Objectives: Evaluate the effect of health coaching on inpatient, emergency room, outpatient, and prescription drug expenditures.

Research design: Quasiexperimental pre-post design. Health coaching participants were identified over the 2-year time period 2009-2010. Propensity scores facilitated matching eligible participants and nonparticipating controls on a one-to-one basis using nearest kernel techniques. Difference in differences logistic and generalized linear models addressed the impact of health coaching on the probability of incurring costs and levels of inpatient, emergency room, outpatient, and prescription drug expenditures, respectively.

Measures: Administrative claims data were used to analyze health services expenditures preparticipation and post health coaching participation time periods.

Results: Of the 6940 health coaching participants, 1161 participated for at least 4 weeks and had a minimum of 6 months of claims data preparticipation and postparticipation. Although the probability of incurring costs and expenditure levels for emergency room services were not affected, the probability of incurring inpatient expenditures and levels of outpatient and total costs for health coaching participants fell significantly from preparticipation to postparticipation relative to controls. Estimated outpatient and total cost savings were $286 and $412 per person per month, respectively.

Conclusions: Health coaching led to significant reductions in outpatient and total expenditures for high-risk plan enrollees. Future studies analyzing both health outcomes and claims data are needed to assess the cost-effectiveness of health coaching in specific populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost Savings / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Health Promotion / economics*
  • Health Services / economics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Patient Education as Topic / economics*
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Telephone
  • Young Adult


  • Prescription Drugs