For five years, Neha Avinash Prabhu Khanolkar has been helping people manage health problems as a certified health coach. With a PG Diploma in Nutrition and Dietetics, Neha started with a single point agenda of helping and guiding patients by focusing on their individual needs and helping them stay focused on the path to disease maintenance and recovery. She guides them and motivates them to stay focused and positive. Nothing gives her more joy than seeing an improvement in patient outcomes through health coaching, and that’s why she decided to become a health coach in the first place.
Health coaches play a very defining role in patients’ lives these days. They help in managing and maintaining chronic diseases in a very effective manner. While medicines help address health problems and promote maintenance of health, it’s the lifestyle changes that the patients make, that helps them lead a quality life. This is exactly where certified health coaches like Neha become very important. While patients today have a lot of information at hand, it’s the health coaches who help them make sense of all the information. Interactive in-app counselling has been a blessing for patients. The continuous physical and nutritional advice that the health coaches provide helps the patient lead a healthy life. Neha Prabhu has been doing that for countless patients, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tell us Neha, is India still reserved in seeking a counsellor for their health? Digitally or offline?
Quite the opposite, I have observed an uptrend in the number of patients seeking digital consultation over the past few months. Patients are becoming extremely proactive about health- and with the pandemic even more so. Health consciousness among people is at an all-time high. People are very aware of their fitness and the food they eat. The pandemic has fuelled digitalization across all consumer needs, and people are embracing it with open arms. The highest movement we see comes from tier 2/ rural areas and from patients above 40 years of age who are skeptical of going out due to the pandemic. This audience has surprisingly been the fastest learner and early adopter of tech. More and more patients are taking the initiative and utilizing the wealth of accessible information that digital offers to self-diagnose, question experts, seek opinions, engage in conversations, and collaborate and empathize with other patients.
That’s interesting. So what are the key things that patients seek from digital in-app counselling?
Everyone is trying to set an order to their disrupted routines again, and it all starts with digital today. People are seeking authentic and reliable information. My patients were reasonably surprised when they understood that we are not promoting supplements or another diet plan. Most of the patients have already tried heavy investment programs with lots of fancy diet and exercise regimes only to hit failures & fall-backs. What matters to them is a positive support, hand-holding, and a constant affirmative nudge towards maintaining a healthy routine. In-app counselling offers the convenience of accessing health on demand with all the data accessible in one place. A clean, neat, and easy to understand interface is really appreciated by the consumers. And when it gets mixed with video, audio, quiz and learning through reading, it becomes more enjoyable for them. What better way of educating and accessing authentic information in a simple and easy to consume format. It’s like a treat, especially for people who are information-seekers and find it hard to google up and fall prey to conflicting information at all times. Middle-aged people love it more because it’s an entirely new way of learning for them, unlike their times.
So what’s your approach towards counselling the patients?
I believe in personalized counselling by understanding the patient’s condition and state of their emotional and mental wellbeing. This, in my view, is the best way to understand and empathize with them and build it forward from there.
Empathy and emotional connection, with a caring tone of voice, approachable nature, and proactive feedback all works. In the first interaction, I try to gauge their knowledge of their health conditions. Then I start building upon it with verbal counselling as well directing them quickly towards authentic readable material that clarifies their concerns instantly.
How do you drive self-discipline among patients?
Driving self-discipline among patients is one of the most challenging and essential tasks. Some things I do to make that easier for my patients are
- Hear my patients deeply
- Solve for their weakness/pain point as the starting thing. Build on their existing knowledge about their health
- Correct misconceptions if any
- Explain to them about setting SMART goals
Those are some very encouraging things you do. So when is the break-off point when the patient starts valuing the guidance of a Health Coach?
Once the patient understands the programme, that itself becomes a positive point because they know that they don’t need to maintain records and reminders. The fact that they can do it all in one place is very encouraging for them. They are eager to learn about conditions. Some patients start believing in us when they see results by making small changes like drinking adequate water, regular walks, changing one bowl in their diet, one plank a day, etc. that we suggest. Motivational messages through push notifications also give a sense of accomplishment. You see that more often in women because a small change in their routine makes a big difference to their mental health too. Improvement is a state of mind – and therefore, approach towards yourself, your goals, beliefs, motivations, sense of possibilities as well as socializing with family improves. And that’s where the break-off point is crossed.
Connecting to so many patients in a day is an extensive job. So what keeps you moving?
So yes, always managing so many patients can be challenging, but then knowing that you are positively influencing the lives of so many people is very motivating. For me, it’s not one thing, so the entire journey of healing with my patients.
- , her Talking/connecting to them through my love for talking,
- Appreciation from the patients in the form of great ratings
- When they share pictures of the recipes shared with them
- Ending a call with an inspired soul on the other side of the line
- Chats that drive the go-getter momentum
- IVR ratings
That’s what keeps me going. The value that I get to add every day to make someone’s health and ultimately, the quality of their life better. Love for patient outcomes and adding value to a patient’s life daily. These are the driving factors for me.
What’s the one piece of advice you would like to share with your patients?
There are many pieces of advice that I give on a day-to-day basis. One of the main ones which patients often miss to keep in check is their quantity and quality of sleep. So my advice would be- ‘Having a night of quality sleep is very important. It is the time when your body and brain slow down and engage in processes of recovery, promoting well-being for the next day as well as for the long-term. Hence, improve your sleeping schedule; your health will automatically get better.’