Massachusetts hospital hopes health coaching will reduce cardiac readmissions

By Jonah Comstock
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Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts has launched a new app-based initiative to try to keep patients from coming back to the hospital’s cardiology department. The hospital has teamed up with Twine Health to launch a program that virtually connects patients with a health coach who helps them stick to their goals.

“I’ve been a cardiologist for 10 years and in my clinic I’m always frustrated by how difficult it is to change behavior,” Dr. Raj Gupta, the hospital’s director of prevention, told MobiHealthNews. “I’ll have a great conversation with a patient, I’ll outline the reasons why they need to lose weight or eat less saturated fat. But since I see them so infrequently it’s hard to make that impact that will completely change their lives.”

For the past six months, Newton-Wellesley has been enrolling any eligible patient that wants to participate in the program. Patients download the app during an office visit and meet their health coach in person in the office. They set health goals that the app then helps them track once they go home.

“Goals can be as simple as ‘drink eight glasses of water a day’ or they could be as difficult as losing 20 pounds in six months,” Gupta said. “We try to make the goals actionable and achievable and if the patients are meeting their goals they check in on the app and if they’re struggling with their goals the health coach can check in and see why they might be struggling to meet some of their goals.”

Twine’s innovation, Gupta says, is making health coaching scalable, letting one coach manage a large number of patients. This is accomplished via a dashboard system that lets the coach zoom in on the patients that are are having trouble.

Gupta says cardiology is the perfect area to deploy this technology initially, because lifestyle can have such a large impact.

“In cardiology we really do know what lifestyle changes can reduce risk, but unfortunately those lifestyle changes are very hard,” Gupta said. “So it almost seems like instead of using medicine after a disease has started, we could use a prescription to change behavior before the disease. So that’s why cardiology fits really well.”

The app allows Gupta and his colleagues to start thinking outside the office visit and to take the long view of their patients’ health.

“Patients can be motivated for a day, a week, or even a month,” he said, “but to keep them motivated for six months, a year, three years, I think that requires more than just a doctor’s office visit.”