Independence Blue Cross (Independence) is proud to honor exceptional nurses in the region through our fourth annual Celebrate Caring campaign. If you know a nurse who has gone above and beyond when it mattered the most, submit your story by March 11 for a chance to have that nurse recognized in a special way through Celebrate Caring. As part of this special campaign, we’re also highlighting the important work of our own nurses and how they keep our communities healthy through non-traditional nursing roles at Independence.
I recently interviewed Lisa Lokuta, RN, BSN, a Health Coach in the Independence Blue Cross Case and Condition Management department to get some insight into health coaching.
IBX: What is a Health Coach?
Lisa: Independence Health Coaches are specially-trained, registered nurses with an average of 8 to 11 years of clinical service. Independence has more than 90 Health Coaches on staff to help our members navigate their health. We are available 24/7, year-round to answer any health-related question you may have. Health Coaches can help you:
- Understand your diagnosis.
- Educate yourself about your condition.
- Learn to actively manage your health.
- Make lifestyle choices that can reduce your health risks.
- Learn self-care skills and how to follow your treatment plan.
- Prepare for visits and discussions with your doctor.
- Weigh the pros and cons of important decisions using evidence-based information they can provide.
- Address everyday health concerns.
IBX: How can a Health Coach help me?
Lisa: Health Coaches can help you with any health-related question or concern. Our main goal is to empower our members and help you take charge of your health. Generally, a question or concern falls into two main areas:
- Condition management: This program helps members manage chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, COPD, osteoporosis, high-risk pregnancy, and more. In this area, Health Coaches help members understand their diagnosis, educate them on symptom management, and look for gaps in care. For example, if we are speaking to a member with diabetes, we ask if they are testing their blood sugar, we discuss their Independence health plan benefits, refer them to community resources such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, discuss goals and lifestyle choices with them, and reach out to their doctors as needed.
- Case management: In case management situations, we reach out to members who recently had a hospital stay. For example, if a member had a stroke, we can help arrange home care or outpatient therapy, help the member navigate benefits, assist with discharge, facilitate access to transportation, refer social workers, and more.
For both case and condition management, we also do a depression screening. If the screening indicates possible depression, we notify the member’s doctor and let the member know about the mental health benefits that are available to him or her.
IBX: Is a Health Coach only for someone who has a chronic illness or was recently hospitalized?
Lisa: No, Health Coaches can help with any health-related question. In addition to the above scenarios, we can help with other health-related areas such as decision support related to elective surgeries, testing, and treatment. Health Coaches also provide resources for healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, weight management, and nutrition.
In other instances, Health Coaches are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer calls for health concerns such as bee stings, urinary tract infections, croup, or any other non-life-threatening injury or illness. We are here to help the member make informed decisions.
We also support expectant mothers through our Baby BluePrints® maternity program.
IBX: When should I call my doctor versus my Health Coach?
Lisa: The advice of Health Coaches does not replace the medical advice of your doctor. Always consult your doctor first. If your doctor is not available (such as at night or on the weekend), and you have a health-related question, Health Coaches are a great resource.
IBX: Do I have to pay for a Health Coach?
Lisa: No, health coaching is offered as part of Independence member benefits. All Independence members have access to health coaching at no additional cost.
To reach a Health Coach at any time, call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY/TDD: 711).