, Volume 25, Issue 10, pp 1071-1077
Date: 16 Jun 2010

Experience with Health Coach-Mediated Physician Referral in an Employed Insured Population

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Given increasing interest in helping consumers choose high-performing (higher quality, lower cost) physicians, one approach chosen by several large employers is to provide assistance in the form of a telephonic “health coach” — a registered nurse who assists with identifying appropriate and available providers.

OBJECTIVE

To evaluate the health coach’s influence on provider choice and the quality of the user experience in the early introduction of this service.

DESIGN

Cross-sectional survey of 3490 employees and covered dependents of a large national firm that offered health coach services to all employees and covered dependents. The survey began in September 2007 with proportionate stratified sampling of 1750 employees and covered dependents who used the services between October 2007 and February 2008, and 1740 non-users.

PARTICIPANTS

Insured adults (ages 21–64) employed by a large national firm or covered dependents of employees.

MEASUREMENTS

Awareness of the service, reason for using service, visits to providers recommended by service, use of health advice provided by service, user satisfaction.

MAIN RESULTS

The primary reason for using the service was to obtain provider referrals (73%). Fifty-two percent of users sought a specialist referral, 33% a PCP referral and 9% a hospital referral. Eighty-nine percent of users seeking a provider referral were referred in-network; 81% of those referred visited the referred provider. Measures of satisfaction with both the service and the care delivered by recommended providers were over 70%.

CONCLUSIONS

Customers largely follow the provider recommendation of the health coach. Users express general satisfaction with existing health coach services, but differences in performance between vendors highlight the need for the services to be well implemented.