Doctors, dieticians, and health coaches – why collaboration is essential
Dr. Innocent Clement: I am the CEO and founder of Ciba Health. Here with us today is my Director of Wellness, Whitney Crouch. Today we’ll be discussing a very important topic, as it relates to collaboration between doctors, dietitians, and health coaches partnering to achieve maximum benefits for our patients.
Whitney, from your experience being the director of Wellness at Ciba Health, you know in the US today, patients have to jump through a lot of hoops to get an appointment with either their primary care provider or with a specialist.
Whitney Crouch: Yes, and there’s a lot of frustration given that patients have to bounce around from provider to provider, with each of these providers giving a different diagnosis or treatment plan. So again, this is really very difficult for the patient. I have seen patients go through a lot of difficulty with that and it really affects them.
Dr. Innocent Clement: So how does this affect our patients, as they have to go through all these processes to be able to set an appointment and see a provider?
Whitney Crouch: With the current climate, during COVID, and even before the pandemic, this is really stressful and confusing for a lot of people because they’re being seen by different providers who specialize in certain parts of the body. They could be seen by an endocrinologist, or a gastroenterologist, or a neurologist. So patients are being looked at through the lens of that body part or system, but they’re also having to go into another office.
So there’s the office aspect. There’s this body part aspect. And then there’s this lack of communication between these different doctors, these specialists, or other care providers, because they may not share the chart notes. They may not have open discussion about the clients and really this affects the client’s outcomes.
This makes it so that as the patient, you may feel confused. You may not know exactly who’s driving your care plan. You may not know exactly what the strategy is, or what the priority is here. If there are a lot of asks that you have to work on for your health, it’s confusing. And at the end of the day, it’s the patient who suffers when balls are dropped or they’re just left confused and feeling unsupported.
Dr. Innocent Clement: I’ve experienced this myself, and I know that it’s a lot of frustration for patients. So what can healthcare providers do to ensure that patients are receiving a streamlined, personalized treatment plan?
Whitney Crouch: So the most important thing is for providers to communicate as a part of a care team for the patient. If providers work together in a multidisciplinary group, they can easily communicate. If they’re not together in a multidisciplinary group, they should actually pick up the phone and call one another and discuss challenging aspects of the person’s health condition. That way, they can provide feedback and make sure that everyone is on the same page, and that details are not lost between providers and appointments. This also ensures the person is really viewed as a whole, and their whole story is shared. Different providers may ask certain questions one way or another, or even not cover certain questions. And that leaves gaps in the person’s history that could be very relevant to their treatment plan.
Dr. Innocent Clement: This is a really important aspect of healthcare: communication. And providing that personalized plan, because every individual is unique. Now, looking at the conventional healthcare system and the way it’s structured today, they treat everyone the same, right?
It’s almost like a one size fits all approach. But we as providers should begin to look at healthcare from a different approach and look at patients as uniquely individual. By looking at their individual biomarkers we will be able to see how you can better support and optimize those health outcomes for patients.
Whitney Crouch: That’s right. Absolutely. I mean, it has to be personalized. Everyone is so unique, from their genetics to their epigenetics. Everyone has a very different glucose, or blood sugar, reaction. For example, if we ate the same size banana with the exact same amount of carbs, we could process that food vastly different. And you can extrapolate that out to everything in a person’s health. If we create a personalized environment where we’re looking at biomarkers, and where different care providers are assessing the same biomarker from a different perspective and applying it to their area of study, then those few biomarkers could mean the difference between a person’s declining health or their condition reversal and their wellness.
Dr. Innocent Clement: Yes, absolutely. So with your insight into the industry today, how do you think these different care providers help the patient?
Whitney Crouch: There are so many care providers right now in the market, and I think it’s really important for everyone to educate themselves on what is out there and what their needs are – because we have different models in the healthcare environment now.
So we have the conventional model, where the patient goes to see the provider and the provider comes up with a care plan and the patient is on their way. And in this model, the patient carries that plan out themselves. The patient may check-in, they may call the office and say, “I have questions and I don’t know what to do.” But if they don’t get the help they need, they may feel lost, throw up their hands, and they’re done. And there is no healing beyond that point.
But the newer model that Ciba Health and others are emerging through is this inclusive, supportive model. So we have doctors, we have dieticians, we have health coaches, and it really takes that kind of a three-prong practitioner approach to support the patient. So for instance, we have a doctor who’s doing some deep-dive into what is actually going on, looking at what are called “functional lab tests” where we look at the whole person and the root cause of problems.
And then once you come up with a care plan that addresses the underlying issue, you need other people to support that care plan and to support that patient. And that could look like a dietician or a health coach, or a combination of the two, because diet and lifestyle are huge in reversing or preventing chronic disease.
Over 80% of chronic conditions are related to diet and lifestyle choices. So it’s not even good enough to just have a dietician or nutritionist visit and come away with a plan. It actually takes multiple visits with someone like a health coach who can help that person change their daily habits and make new habits in order to sustain positive health outcomes.
Dr. Innocent Clement: Absolutely. We need that. It’s very, very important, looking at the healthcare system the way it is right now. What would be an ideal healthcare team, in terms of how you can better support the patient and empower them as they continue in their journey in the healthcare space?
Whitney Crouch: Right. So, I mean, there are some core providers that people would really benefit from to really instill these healthy habits. So creating a root cause care plan, and then being able to actually carry it out. Those are two different things, but together, you have the mental and emotional support and the daily habit formation.
So an ideal team could look like a primary care physician or a functional medicine doctor, in addition to a mental health provider, plus someone to help with diet and lifestyle choices. That could be a dietician or a health coach, or both. So we’re really looking at about two to four practitioners who collaborate and discuss the patient and share what’s going on. They should all look at the big picture and help the person to decide what their priorities are for their health and help them to learn where these new habits fit into their daily life. That way, the patient is empowered to make the changes and drive their own healing journey.
Dr. Innocent Clement: Whitney, could you share our approach at Ciba Health, how we approach our patients, and how we support and empower them from day one?
Whitney Crouch: Absolutely. So at its core Ciba Health is a multi-disciplinary platform of providers. We are doctors, we are dieticians, we are health coaches, and we are mental health professionals who are reviewing your labs, ordering new labs and medications where necessary, and working on your diet and your lifestyle. We also work with you on your mental health and your ability to get to the root of what is causing illness. Basically, we work with you to peel back the layers of the onion. We look at your genetics, you unique biomarkers, and we track your progress. If you’re struggling, we help coach you. We can help you with your accountability and really with your whole lifestyle to change the trajectory of your life.
Dr. Innocent Clement: Excellent. Thank you, Whitney, for sharing your insights and reminding us how important it is to have collaboration between doctors, dieticians, health coaches, and mental health professionals.