Mercy Health Network’s leadership in quality and preventive care has earned national recognition and proven success. Mercy Health Network’s distinctive, award-winning Health Coach Program is a ground-breaking approach to optimizing the health and well-being of all patients.
What is a Mercy health coach?
Mercy Health Coaches are licensed, registered nurses who work with primary care doctors to provide one-on-one care to help patients set and achieve health improvement goals.
Who do Mercy Health Coaches Help?
Mercy Health Coaches are available to work with patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure to provide education and support during the journey to a healthier lifestyle. Mercy Health Coaches also remind patients when it is time for their regular health screenings and wellness exams.
How does the Mercy health coach program work?
Mercy Health Coaches work with patients to create a customized health improvement plan to meet each individual’s specific needs. The plan may include education about specific conditions or risk factors, healthy eating tips, an exercise plan or a timeline for follow-up visits. Most importantly, Mercy Health Coaches provide ongoing support to patients as they make changes to improve their health.
Where can I find a Mercy health coach?
Mercy Health Coaches are stationed at family practice, internal medicine and pediatric sites throughout the Mercy Health Network and are available to help all patients. To schedule an appointment with a Mercy Health Coach, simply call your regular doctor’s office and ask to speak with the Health Coach.
What is the cost of Mercy health coach services?
Services provided by Mercy Health Coaches are free to patients who visit a primary care doctor in the Mercy Health Network.
Testimonial - Larry’s Story
When Larry Betsinger was diagnosed with diabetes he was scared. Like many people, Larry gained weight as he aged. Every birthday meant a few extra pounds, climbing cholesterol numbers and an increase in blood pressure.
But it was his dangerously high blood sugar that shocked Larry into reality.
“My doctor looked at me and said, ‘Larry, you’re now officially a diabetic.’”
It took a moment for those words to sink in. Then, Larry asked his doctor one question.
“Can I fix this?”
“Yes, you can fix this,” his doctor said. “If you’re willing to work hard and make changes to commit to a healthier lifestyle, you can fix this.”
Larry’s doctor recommended a Mercy Health Coach: a healthcare professional who would partner with Larry to help him fully understand his condition and how to make lifestyle changes to improve it — and stand by him as those changes took place.
The Mercy Health Coach Program allows patients to learn about wellness challenges at a natural pace, while Health Coaches explain strategies for dealing with those challenges in the same way. Visits are relaxed and not strictly timed, either by clock or by calendar.
Larry’s Mercy Health Coach admitted that Larry was apprehensive at first. He was worried about the potential complications of his diabetes. At their first meeting, Larry’s Health Coach spent time explaining how diabetes is controllable.
“I was very fearful,” agreed Larry. “I was upset by the whole thing.”
But by his second visit, Larry really warmed up to the idea of making positive changes to improve his health. Then, his enthusiasm shined through and he just took off!
Larry credits his Health Coach for sparking that enthusiasm. “She made me believe that I could do it, that I could control my blood sugar and control my weight, and she did that by dealing with me logically, by explaining the numbers,” he said. As a retired bank executive, Larry understands numbers. “I’m a numbers person,” he said. “Numbers always tell a story.”
Larry’s Health Coach explained the numbers that were affecting his health – blood sugar numbers — and how they were affected by carbohydrates in Larry’s diet.
Larry’s Health Coach provided him with information then let him decide what to do to change his life. Larry and his Health Coach chronicled everything he put into his body, and then talked about what he was willing to change.
Larry impressed his Health Coach by taking the time to create an intricate log of his blood sugar counts using a spreadsheet. After seeing the direct relationship between eating a meal high in carbohydrates and having a high blood sugar level, Larry started modifying his diet.
“Before I started paying attention, probably 90 percent of what I ate was carbohydrates,” he said. “Breads, pastas ... I loved them, and I still do. And I didn’t give them up. I just reduced the portion sizes.”
Larry estimates that he cut his carbohydrate intake by two-thirds while maintaining a regular exercise routine, which included working with a personal trainer, bowling and golfing.
A tall man of 6' 4", Larry began modifying his diet when he weighed about 315 pounds. A little more than a year later, he’d lost 90 of those pounds.
“It got to the point where I actually had to start taking in between 300 and 400 extra calories a day, because I didn’t want to lose any more weight!” Larry exclaimed, now comfortable at about 225 pounds — and with healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
While proud of his success, Larry is quick to share credit with his Mercy Health Coach.
“I probably never would have believed I could do it without my Health Coach,” Larry said. “I was absolutely convinced it was impossible for a 73-year-old man to lose 90 pounds. My Health Coach convinced me that I could, and once I believed that I could, I did. I set goals and I worked toward them. And, my Health Coach gave me so much encouragement along the way ... she’s probably the nicest person I ever met.”
Larry’s Health Coach was thrilled with his results. And, even though Larry is considered a ‘graduate’ of the Mercy Health Coach Program, the coach-patient relationship never really ends. He is always welcome to call or stop by for a visit.
“They’re all so pleased any time I visit,” he said. “They clap!”
It’s that kind of encouragement that makes the Mercy Health Coach Program work — for both the patients and the coaches.
Testimonial - Dorothy’s Story
Dorothy Rafferty was not unlike other women her age struggling to manage high blood pressure. But when her blood sugar also became elevated, Dorothy's primary care physician suggested she seek additional help.
“She recommended I meet with a Health Coach to develop a plan,” said Dorothy.
Physician office-based Health Coaches help to manage the increasing number of patients with chronic conditions, oversee disease registries, educate patients about chronic conditions and improve clinic patient outcomes. Mercy Clinics has Health Coaches located at each of its primary care clinic locations.
“Having Health Coaches has helped us avoid potential complications for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension,” said Dr. David Swieskowski, Chief Accountable Care Officer. “Patients have also told us that they like having direct feedback from their Coach so they can stay on track.”
With the help of her Mercy Health Coach, Dorothy set goals — such as planning her diet and incorporating exercise into her daily routine. Dorothy lowered her blood pressure with a steady program of exercise, and the exercise and diet modifications also helped her lose weight and keep her blood sugar under control.
“It’s effective because it’s tailored to individuals,” says Monica Vail, R.N., Health Coach Manager. “We recognize that individuals are their own best experts. The job of our Health Coaches is simply to empower people and provide them with accountability and support in the change process.”
"I just needed a little guidance and someone who would hold me accountable,” said Dorothy. “It is not always easy. You have to stay with it. It takes work, but don’t give up.”
Testimonial - Tom’s Story
At age 66, Tom Shaffer had always considered himself to be fairly healthy. Over the years, it became normal for him to put on a few extra pounds during the winter months and then lose some or all of that weight during the summer. But at a routine physical exam with his doctor in June, 2013, Tom learned that the status of his good health may be in jeopardy.
“Tom’s weight had increased to the highest it had ever been,” said Dr. Joseph McGargill, family practice physician at Mercy East Family Practice. “He had high blood pressure and was pre-diabetic, which are both risk factors for more serious health complications.”
Dr. McGargill didn’t waste any time finding Tom the resources he needed to help him improve his health. Within just a few days, Tom met with Mercy Health Coach, Andrea Carter, to set goals and create a plan for living a healthier lifestyle.
“As a Health Coach, it’s my job to work with patients to create customized health care improvement plans and to provide ongoing education and support to patients as they make changes to improve their health,” said Carter. “When I first met Tom, he was very motivated to learn how he could make changes in his daily routine that would have long-term health benefits.”
After just a few coaching sessions, Tom was already beginning to see improvement.
“I now have a better understanding of how to nourish my body with healthy foods so I feel full and satisfied,” said Tom. “My Health Coach educated me about the effects different foods can have on my body and gave me the resources I needed to make healthy decisions when it came to specific foods and portion sizes.”
In five months, Tom lost just over 40 pounds and has significantly reduced his risk for developing chronic health conditions. He credits tracking the food he eats every day as one of the most valuable tools that has helped him along in his journey to good health. He’s also gained self-discipline when it comes to going walking for exercise, something he tries to do as often as possible. Most importantly, Tom has gained a new friend.
“I really enjoy the visits with my Health Coach and I look forward to learning something new during each visit. Andrea provides the positive encouragement I need to stay on track,” said Tom.