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AJLXXX10.1177/1559827617702074American Journal of Lifestyle MedicineAmerican Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

vol. 12 • no. 2 American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

Ryan P. Sherman, DBH, CHWC, and Ishani Ganguli, MD, MPH

Primary Care–Based Health

Coaching for the Management of

Abstract: Introduction. Prediabetes n estimated one third of American by 58%.7 Most primary care settings do
is a prevalent disease that has been adults have prediabetes.1 Without not have the resources to provide such
associated with its own health risks lifestyle changes, these individuals comprehensive educational and
and is a known precursor of type 2 have an increased risk of chronic kidney behavioral lifestyle interventions,8 but
diabetes. Lifestyle interventions are and cardiovascular disease,2,3 while 15% there is some evidence that primary care
known to effectively treat prediabetes to 30% will develop diabetes within 5 patients enrolling in prediabetes
but are often not offered to patients years.4 Most patients with prediabetes do interventions are well-informed of their
within a primary care setting. Study not receive proven interventions that condition but need a structured path to
Design. Exploratory and descriptive prevent or slow this progression, often enact change, suggesting that the
study. Objective. To assess if the use because their clinicians lack the behavioral component alone may offer
of a health coaching intervention knowledge or time to deliver them.5,6 some benefit.9,10
among primary care patients,
with prediabetes, warrants further
examination. Methods. A retrospective Most patients with prediabetes do
chart review was conducted for all
patients who had prediabetes and not receive proven interventions that
received health coaching at the
Ambulatory Practice of the Future
prevent or slow this progression . . .
between 2012 and 2014. Discussion.
A health coaching intervention The Centers for Disease Control and Health coaching is a patient-centered
used among primary care patients, Prevention’s Diabetes Prevention process that is based on behavior change
with prediabetes, deserves further Program is one such lifestyle intervention theory,11 which focuses on promoting
examination, as participants had a that uses biweekly supervised exercise patient self-efficacy, therefore requiring
significant reduction in hemoglobin sessions and 30- to 60-minute dietary less time and fewer resources than
A1c and weight over 2 years. counseling sessions and behavioral standardized counseling, and has been
modification over 16 weeks.7 This shown to reduce HbA1c in patients with
Keywords: primary care; health intervention has shown the potential to type 2 diabetes.12 Therefore, the primary
coaching; weight loss; prediabetes reduce the risk of developing diabetes objective of this exploratory study was to

DOI: 10.1177/1559827617702074. From the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. Address correspondence to: Ryan Sherman,
DBH, CHWC, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, 101 Merrimac Street, 10th Floor, Boston, MA 02114; e-mail: rsherman@medwayschools.org.
For reprints and permissions queries, please visit SAGE’s Web site at http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav.
Copyright © 2017 The Author(s)

American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine Mar • Apr 2018

Figure 1. Figure 2.
Participant recruitment. Health coaching appointment flow chart.

assess if the use of a health coaching

intervention among primary care
patients, with prediabetes, warrants
further examination. To make this
assessment, we used a retrospective
chart review to examine the feasibility
and preliminary outcomes of a primary
care–based, behavioral health coaching
intervention for adults with prediabetes.

In this exploratory study, we examined
charts of patients who had prediabetes
(HbA1c 5.7% to 6.4%) and received +
PCP = primary care physician; ++NP = nurse practitioner.
health coaching between 2012 and 2014
at the Ambulatory Practice of the Future
(APF). This study was approved by the Procedures evaluation and engagement including
Partners Healthcare institutional review Patients who enrolled in health motivational interviewing, self-
board. The APF is a primary care practice coaching agreed to participate for at least determination theory, transtheoretical
at Massachusetts General Hospital 12 weeks with the APF’s health coach model, positive psychology, and
(MGH) that serves MGH employees and (RS), a certified health coach and a relational flow.13 The health coach did
their spouses. Participants were referred registered clinical exercise physiologist. not provide advice or education unless
to coaching by their primary care All patients received usual care by their the patient explicitly requested it.
physician (PCP) or a nurse practitioner. PCP throughout the time of the study. Figure 2 describes the content and the
We excluded patients who did not have Coaching was based on the structure of the health coaching visits.
an HbA1c tested by their PCP at 24 Wellcoaches protocol, which integrates Each patient was asked to return to the
months postintervention (Figure 1). several models of behavioral APF to obtain a follow-up weight and

vol. 12 • no. 2 American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

Table 1. Table 2.
Baseline Demographic Body Weight and HbA1c of Participants Over Time.
Characteristics of Participants
(N = 17). HbA1c Weight
  Mean (%) 95% CI Mean (lb) 95% CI
Age, mean (SD) 52 (12.44)
Baseline 5.85 [5.79%, 5.90%] 195.2 [192.1, 198.3]
Gender (male), n 10 (59)
(%) 6 Months 5.72 [5.68%, 5.76%] 188.5 [187, 190]
Ethnicity, n (%) 24 Months 5.64* [5.56%, 5.68%] 183.7* [180.1, 187.3]
 White 15 (88) Abbreviations: HbA1c, hemoglobin A1c; CI, confidence interval.
*P < .001 difference between HbA1c and weight at baseline and 24 months.
 Asian 2 (12)
Comorbidities, n (%)
 Hyperlipidemia 11(65) Results primary care patients, with prediabetes,
deserves further examination.
 Hypertension 4 (23) We examined 17 adults ranging in age This exploratory study has inherent
from 32 to 71 years. The majority of limitations, such as the lack of a
  Depression and/ 3 (18)
patients were white, and all patients comparison group and selection bias.
or anxiety
attended at least some college. The Our study also has limited
Education, n (%) majority of patients had at least one generalizability given that the patients
other comorbidity (Table 1). were predominately white, commercially
 Bachelor’s 13 (76) On average, patients participated in 7 insured, and college-educated.
degree or higher coaching sessions over 5 months (range Furthermore, the APF serves a unique
  Some college 4 (24) = 3-6 months). The most common goals population of hospital employees and
set by patients were related to their spouses who may have chosen the
cardiovascular exercise (82%), strength clinic based on their prior interest and
training (71%), food preparation (59%), commitment to coaching. Our study was
HbA1c at 6 months, regardless of their reducing empty calorie intake (eg, also limited by the use of one health
engagement with coaching after the alcohol or dessert; 29%), and increasing coach, as the results could be an effect
third month. fruit and vegetable intake (29%). of the coach’s personal strengths rather
Mean HbA1c decreased from 5.85% than the coaching methodology.
Measurements and (95% confidence interval = 5.79% to Due to these limitations, a direct
Statistical Analysis 5.90%) prior to health coaching to 5.72% correlation between use of a health
We reviewed the charts of all APF (95% confidence interval = 5.68% to coaching model and a reduction in
patients who had prediabetes and 5.76%) at 6 months and 5.62% (95% HbA1c in primary care patients, with
were seen by the health coach confidence interval = 5.56% to 5.68%) at prediabetes, cannot be made. However,
between 2012 and 2014. We collected 24 months (P < .001). Mean baseline this study generated a hypothesis that
HbA1c, weight, body mass index weight decreased from 195.2 lbs to 188.5 deserves further investigation: the health
(BMI), age, gender, race, level of lbs at 6 months and to 183.7 lbs at 24 coaching model can be applied to
education, presence of comorbid months (P < .001; Table 2). reduce HbA1c in primary care patients
conditions including hypertension, with prediabetes. To fully investigate this
hyperlipidemia, depression, and hypothesis, a multicenter, multicoach,
Discussion randomized control study is needed to
anxiety, and number of coaching
encounters. Our exploratory study indicated that evaluate the impact of implementing a
Demographic data were summarized patients who received health coaching health coaching intervention to manage
using descriptive statistics. Mean HbA1c achieved significant reductions in HbA1c prediabetes within a primary care setting.
and BMI before and after health and body weight after 2 years. Of note,
coaching at 6 and 24 months was HbA1c and weight continued to improve Declaration of
compared using a repeated-measures after coaching ended, which suggests the Conflicting Interests
ANOVA test. Data analysis was potential for a sustained effect of the The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with
performed using SPSS version 23 intervention. These results suggest that a respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
(Chicago, IL). health coaching intervention used among article. AJLM

American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine Mar • Apr 2018

gov/diabetes/basics/prediabetes.html. diabetes prevention programs: a systematic

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