Coaching Health at the Outer Banks Hospital
By Kip Tabb –
What if we reversed the way we think of health care and doctors? What if, instead of going to a health care provider only when we don’t feel well, we went in for a well-check—a look at what we’re doing right and what we can improve to keep ourselves healthy?
We tend go to a doctor when we’re sick—a view of health care that is simple, straightforward and somewhat problematic. Certainly going to a doctor when we’re not feeling well is an important part of maintaining our health, yet increasingly, identifying how to maintain our good health, what we are doing right and what behaviors we need to adjust, has become a part of the discussion.
That preventative part of the health care discussion has become more apparent over the past few years—more discussions of diet, exercise and healthy lifestyles are evidence of that. More frequently, also, health fairs—a gathering that brings preventative measures to the public are becoming part of the mix.
But what if the health fair could come to the office, or a school or government building? What if, instead of a health fair there was a health coach that could drive up to the front door and deliver that same service?
Over the past few years, one of the most spectacular winter events has been the Outer Banks Hospital Gala, and the hospital’s Development Council had been able to set aside a considerable nest egg. When the discussion began about what to do with the funds, wellness quickly became the focus. “After thinking about it, Ronnie Sloan, the President of our hospital, came up with the idea of our wellness on wheels,” Amy Montgomery, Director of Community Outreach of the Outer Banks Hospital, says.
“Our mission statement actually has wellness written into it,” Sloan adds.
The concept of a wellness coach, of a bus taking preventative medicine to the streets is not new—since the 1990s hospitals and health care organizations have been loading up vehicles and going to the public. What is unique about the Outer Banks Hospital health coach is how complete the wellness checkup is. Almost all wellness coaches have specific areas of health they address—prenatal care, mammograms, cancer screening—the Outer Banks Health Coach takes a much more holistic approach.
“We do the lion’s share of what you would receive in an annual wellness check with you physician,” Montgomery says. The wellness check includes cholesterol screening, body mass index (BMI), blood glucose levels, heart rate, blood pressure and other measures as well as a life style profile questionnaire. “They can answer the questions they want to,” Montgomery says. “Everything from ‘do you text while driving’ to ‘do you smoke.’”
The information provided by the screening and the questionnaire allows the health care provider who travels with the coach to assess the participant’s overall wellness. “When we’re on the road and doing a full wellness checkup, we have a doctor or a mid level provider like a nurse practitioner on board,” Montgomery explains. “That person is able to really go to the next level and make a referral if called for.”
The Health Coach has a lab, private doctor’s office and a full staff of nurses and lab technicians when it goes out. Although the vehicle’s maintenance is paid for by the Development Council the Outer Banks Hospital pays for the staff—except for the doctors, who almost always volunteer their time.
The Health Coach is, by any standard, a huge commitment to the community—an innovative approach to creating a higher standard of care for the Outer Banks. According to Sloan it’s a win-win situation. “When we give back to the community, they give back to us,” he says. And, perhaps, it’s also personal to him. “You get into health care because you want to do the right thing,” he says.