5 ways technology will revolutionize health coaching

by | Nov 2, 2015

At their very foundation, many pre-chronic and chronic diseases are lifestyle issues that can only be reversed by changing behaviors. Trying to modify an ingrained behavior, though, is extraordinarily hard and doing it alone is near impossible.

Coaches play a crucial role in the behavior change process by keeping clients accountable while also encouraging them to continue when they most feel like quitting. Digital coaching programs have already greatly increased the capacity of coaches, but currently, they operate more as an extension of the existing system than a revolutionary new approach.

Technology has the power to usher in remarkable changes in the coaching world. Here, the 5 most exciting ways we believe technology will enhance coaching.

1. Make what was once invisible, visible
A coach can have a huge impact on a person’s life by helping him or her recognize and change harmful behavior patterns. Currently, in order to detect and learn a user’s triggers, a coach would have to actively monitor all of a user’s behaviors, seeking patterns and clues that will reveal where a user has the most room for improvement. But, with users making hundreds of choices every day, this method is extremely time-consuming. If a coach were to devote this level of time and energy to each client, they would need to drastically decrease their caseload. Conversely, as a coach decreases the time spent on each client, more triggers and signals are able to slip through the cracks. Enter technology, which allows behavior cues to be constantly collected, presenting habits and trends as opposed to discordant data points.

2. Separate signal from noise
Think about the average day in the life of a patient. People face an excess of readily available cheap eats — from omnipresent fast food joints to the unhealthy treats that fill a snack room — with a limited amount of willpower. Presently, coaches must dig through a barrage of noise to find the behavior signals that actually matter. Without knowing which choices are indicative of a larger pattern, a coach must respond to every unhealthy food choice a client makes to ensure a patient is not falling off the wagon. With a database collecting all of a user’s behavioral signals, a powerful analytics engine can sort through the millions of data points, alerting coaches only when a minimum threshold of poor food choices or an indicative cluster of behaviors suggests a user is in need of support.

3. Anticipate where a user will go
With the massive amounts of data we can collect across large populations, trends can rapidly be observed and catalogued. As more patterns become part of the database, the system can identify behavioral similarities across user segments and entire populations. Technology can surface this tendency and alert coaches to every user in a particular user segment engaging in a predictive behavior, enabling the coach to intervene before a downward trend becomes a definitive turn for the worse.

4. Coaches can intervene in real time
Presently, if a user slips, falls off course, or decides to quit a program altogether, a coach can only react after the fact. But if AI has the ability to anticipate a user’s moves, coaches can intervene in real time, at the exact moment a user needs help. If a week of inactivity normally leads to a day of binge eating, a coach can intercede mid-week, checking in to see how a user’s feeling, how he or she is progressing, and give him or her an encouraging word. These easy and positive interactions can divert the user’s course, keeping him or her from going off track in the first place.

5. Track the success of interventions across populations
Because every user’s journey is individual, it is hard to codify what a successful intervention is. Each user may reach their final goal using different steps and resolutions than others. By tracking each intervention — what worked and what didn’t — across populations, AI can help to create standardized interventions that have been optimized for efficiency and quality.

Health coaching has the potential to transform the way people view their health. Technology has the power to revolutionize health coaching. From constantly monitoring behaviors to tracking the most successful interventions, behavior change technology can catapult health coaching into a new dimension that will disrupt the healthcare sphere as we know it.