Feature Patient Participation

The health coaches from Dunkin’ Donuts

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1456 (Published 27 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1456
  1. Sophie Arie, journalist, London, UK
  1. sarie{at}bmj.com

Peer to peer health coaching exists in many forms, writes Sophie Arie. She describes a US model that is popular with patients and moves toward more coaching in the UK

For years, Eugene and Elena Norris, who both have type 2 diabetes and hypertension, kept trying different doctors.

“We were not happy with other doctors or clinics and were looking for a facility that would look at the whole person instead of just pushing drugs,” the couple told The BMJ from their home in Las Vegas, where Elena works at the Golden Gate Casino.

Eventually they found the Culinary Extra Clinic run by Iora Health, a small new healthcare provider that serves specific communities, in this case hotel and casino staff in Las Vegas, with a different kind of service that aims “to restore the humanity to healthcare.” Under the model patients help to develop their healthcare plan and targets with the care team, which includes a doctor, a nurse, and a “health coach.”

Empathy and communication skills

The coaches (or navigators, as Iora calls them) are the main point of contact for patients. Most are former service industry workers hired from the same communities as patients and are chosen not for their professional qualifications but for having empathy and good communication skills.

The Norrises, who are 61 and 62 years old, were assigned to a young member of the clinic’s staff, Chidimma Ozor, who visited them at their home initially and then was available on the phone or at the clinic to provide any support the couple needed.

The coach and the patients have access to their …

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