Client Perspectives on Health Coaching: Insight for Improved Program Design

Am J Health Behav. 2020 Sep 1;44(5):591-602. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.44.5.4.

Abstract

Objective: In this paper, we examine client perspectives of health coaching programs and differences by insurance type. Methods: We used descriptive coding and directed content analysis to analyze semi-structured qualitative in-person interviews that assessed preferred health coach qualifications and experience, desirable attributes for coaches, and interest in having a coach. We recruited participants (N = 140 adults: 61 commercial insurance, 79 Medicaid) without consideration of prior health coaching experience. Results: Participants viewed physicians as the experts on health and valued coaches as supporters of behavior-change efforts that could take a patient's life context into account. Empathetic coaches were expected to motivate and hold patients accountable without taking too much time or being too "pushy." Participants preferred some in-person interaction and differed in preferences for program referral and enrollment approaches. Medicaid beneficiaries had less prior exposure to health coaching, more interest in having a coach, and preferred coaches to provide medical education. Conclusions: Irrespective of prior coaching experience or insurance type, participants agreed on many preferred characteristics of coaches and coaching programs. Understanding client preferences and expectations can help refine the role of health coaches, making them more effective and shaping the way they are presented to potential participants to enhance their appeal and use.