Partnering with Dietitians, Nutritionists & Health Coaches
By Lisa Murray, RDN, LD
The reward and satisfaction received from helping people improve their health may drive your desire to provide effective care, but honestly, your reputation and the growth of your business rests on your patients’ success.
A person coming to see an integrative practitioner, perhaps for the very first time, can be overwhelmed with what lies ahead of them, the things they have to learn, and the changes they may have to make, if they want to get well and stay well. As you know, it can be very difficult for a busy doctor to meet the needs of those patients requiring a higher level of direct help and support to make lifestyle changes and follow their treatment plan. This is when a dietitian, nutritionist or health coach can be invaluable to you, your patient, and your business. Because what is more important than your patients’ success?
Dietitians, nutritionists and health coaches are able to provide diet and nutrition education, meal plans, shopping lists and recipes, and are trained in methods facilitating behavior change. Their expertise is in determining what areas a patient requires more education, providing it in a way the patient can understand, identifying obstacles to compliance and providing strategies to overcome those obstacles. For a patient who is confused and struggling with changes, they can segment a treatment plan into smaller, progressively achievable goals, monitor their compliance and provide proactive outreach to help motivate patients toward greater success. They can offer health and wellness classes, run support groups and write articles for your website, blogs or newsletters. Their contributions as members of the healthcare team can bring added value to your patients. How this works for you and your practice depends upon what you want, what your patients need and the person you choose.
Dietitians are licensed healthcare providers, and insurance companies will pay for them to provide nutrition counseling for patients with diagnoses such as diabetes, heart disease and renal disease. Insurance may also pay for weight management counseling individually, and for group education. You may decide to develop a referral partnership, or invite a dietitian to join your integrative practice to provide nutrition counseling for your patients, teach classes and also accept outside referrals.
The mission of a health coach is to drive success. They will help your patients develop a manageable plan for reaching their health goals, track their progress and help them overcome roadblocks along the way. Greater availability and more frequent contact with patients allow a health coach the opportunity to ask and answer questions, coaching and motivating patients to stay on track.
Education and experience varies widely so interview and choose carefully. Someone knowledgeable about supplements and integrative therapies will understand your work, and know how to align their approach with yours. Whether you decide to form a referral partnership or hire someone within your practice to provide these services to your patients, your partnership will be more successful if you communicate clearly about your expectations and parameters. Be clear about what you want for your patients, as well as what you don’t want! As in any good relationship, communication is the key to success!
Lisa Murray, RDN, LD