Health Coaching, chronic pain and transforming patient care

Richard Couch from Connect Health is changing patient empowerment for those with chronic pain. Here, he shares his insights on patient-centred-care

Connect Health is a leading provider of local healthcare services, including musculoskeletal, chronic pain, rheumatology and mental health. Established in 1993, the organisation - which is a strategic partner to the NHS - aims to enable everyone to live healthy and active lives by engaging and empowering them.

Richard Couch, Service Transition Manager at Connect Health, has specialised in chronic pain management for the past 15 years. 

“I am a physiotherapist by background and as Service Transition Manager for Connect Health, I am currently involved in the development of our health coaching offering,” he says. “I have a genuine passion for enabling behaviour change and delivering large scale health improvements and believe health coaching can be a powerful tool to achieve this.”

Here, Richard tells us about chronic pain, the changing attitudes towards it and health coaching.

Hi Richard! What led you to this industry?

“From a young age I was interested in all aspects of health, movement and exercise, largely inspired by my Dad, who played professional rugby. Physiotherapy felt like a great career choice, to be able to go deeper into these areas and help people at the same time.”

 

What is health coaching?

“Health coaching utilises conversational skills and techniques to shift mind-set and improve self-management capability. This supports and empowers patients towards their own goals and aspirations, improving their quality of life and health.

“By completing health coaching training, I have experienced its benefits. It provides the person being coached an environment in which to ’think well’ and raise their awareness. This can then allow better choices to be made in relation to their ongoing health and wellbeing.” 

 

Tell us about the impact of chronic pain.

“Chronic pain affects 30-50% of the UK population, with one in five people who live with pain experiencing at least a moderately disabling impact. Strong association exists between chronic pain, disability and mental ill health, such as anxiety and depression. Chronic pain can lead to social isolation and loneliness, reduce people's ability to work and impact their quality of life. Persistent musculoskeletal pain takes up to 30% of a GP’s caseload and back pain alone costs the UK economy £10bn per year.” 

 

How can health coaching reduce demand for doctor's appointments and secondary care treatments?

“Research demonstrates that when a person improves their ability to self-manage their pain, (measured by patient activation scores) which can be achieved through health coaching, healthcare costs can be reduced by up to 8.3%. This can lead to 18% less doctors appointments and 38% fewer emergency interventions. 

“Health coaching builds strong trust and rapport with patients. A health coach can truly understand the patient’s needs and provide a personalised care approach.” 

 

Can changing behaviours and attitudes put control back in the hands of patients?

“More than four in ten people living with a long-term condition, including chronic pain, do not have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their health and wellbeing on a daily basis. 

“Health coaching promotes self-management with a focus on ’skills, not pills’, working with clients on ’what matters to them’ rather than a focus on ‘what’s the matter with them’, this shift puts control of health back into patients' hands.”

 

Can you tell us about your partnerships?

“Connect Health works with multiple partners to deliver clinically sustainable and affordable services that are designed to meet the changing needs of the UK population, including addressing health inequalities, to improve the quality of services and deliver better patient outcomes and experience.  

“To support this, we utilise a tried and tested mobilisation and transformation methodology, which alongside our operational platform and digital tools (operational and clinical dashboards, business intelligence and learning academy) provide the visibility to optimise clinical and operational performance and decision making.”

 

What do the next 12 months hold for you and the company?

“I am really excited about driving the development of health coaching both internally within Connect Health and externally within the UK and hopefully further afield. Connect Health continues to look at innovative ways to deliver services, produce better outcomes and provide good value to all its stakeholders. 

“Connect Health wants to champion health coaching over the coming year and beyond to ensure our services continue to better meet patient’s needs, provide personalised care, and support the development of asset-based community health. We are always looking for unique ways to add value to our customers; health coaching can be a tool for this whether through ’waiting well’ initiatives or innovative pathway design.”

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