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Care Coaching Breaks from Tradition to Help People Quit Smoking

“It is projected that we will see annual global tobacco-related deaths rise from 5 million to 10 million by 2020″

Giving up tobacco is one of the smartest and most valuable decisions anyone can make. Smoking and the use of tobacco products are major contributing factors to lung disease and several cancers that can affect and even end an individual’s life. But quitting is much easier said than done. Most people have to make several attempts at quitting before they finally succeed, partly because they don’t have the resources and professional advice they need to break the habit.

Care coaching resolves this issue with medical professionals who provide the resources, support, and professional advice people need to successfully quit smoking. A program designed to meet people where they are and help them remove any kind of barriers that can inhibit success is pivotal in helping them reach the goal to quit.

A patient-centered approach to care coaching is based on a primary coach model where the same coach manages the person’s case from start to finish. A dedicated coach is able to build a trusted relationship with the person over time augmented with motivational inputs that help people stay on track with their Quit Plan.

The traditional roundtable model, where a person gets the next available coach in the queue puts the burden on them to explain to the coach where they are in the process and what they’re struggling with today in relation to quitting. With a primary coach assigned—whether they need three sessions or 10—the person can get right to the issue at hand, knowing they will be immediately understood. Removing the burden of continuously needing to explain themselves to coaches they don’t know keeps motivation up and people more likely to stay on track with their goal to quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a big, overwhelming goal for most people. Care coaching can help them break it down into micro goals by helping them to identify things they’re tripping over along the way. This ability comes from the primary coaching model where the coach gets to know the person and their situation intimately through motivational interviewing.

Motivational Interviewing Helps People Take Control of Their Goal to Quit

In a traditional doctor-to-patient relationship, the patient is always looking up to the authority of the doctor. Doctors dictate what’s right for the patient; in essence, pushing the solution on them. Care coaches work on par with the person, meeting them where they’re at.  Quitting smoking requires a huge behavioral shift. People are much more successful when they arrive at the decision on their own and figure out how to take control over the change they want to make.

Motivational interviewing uses open-ended questions, rather than the closed interrogatory questions used by doctors. The questioning asks the person to think about where they’re at in relation to smoking.  The coach asks about their fears and what’s going on their lives, as well as helping to uncover the goals of the person that will be most impacted by smoking cessation. In other words, helping the person to affirm the “why” about their choice to quit based on what’s most important to them.

Much of a care coaches’ job is to ask open questions, listen carefully to what the person is saying and then provide reflections and affirmations that show they understand what’s been said. Affirmations are much stronger than a compliment and let the person know that their coach has truly heard them.

Smoking Cessation Programs Work Best with Dedicated Coaching

Tobacco-related illnesses put tremendous pressure on our health care system. Close to $200 billion is spent annually on health care and productivity losses attributable to cigarette use. Hospital visits, diagnoses, and treatments for these diseases demand time and resources that cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Reducing smoking means lowering that tax burden and directing health care resources to other important areas.

Research finds that the majority of people attempt to quit smoking without support, including the use of evidence-based treatments such as behavioral assistance. Even if they do succeed in quitting for a period of time, many will revert back to smoking. Those who do seek out care coaching as a support system for smoking cessation are found to be more successful in remaining smoke free than those who pursue conventional approaches. The key to a successful smoking cessation program appears to be having a primary coach who is dedicated to the person throughout their cessation process by maintaining close contact. Without question, quitting smoking is difficult and relapses are frequent. However, providing a cessation program based on care coaching that uses dedicated coaches and motivational interviewing techniques to help people gain the resources, support, and advice they need to quit is gaining more successful outcomes than other methods. SYKES provides customized care coaching programs to governments, employers and healthcare providers.

freeaFreeha Bhatti, MACP, has been with Sykes for 10 years in a variety of different roles including Human Resources, Operations Management and most recently Client Relations. Freeha has been overseeing program delivery and program enhancements in tobacco cessation coaching since 2009 and physical fitness/weight management coaching since 2012. She has recently acquired her Registration as a Psychotherapist with a background in Counselling Psychology. Freeha has been active member of The North America Quitline Consortium, including being invited to participate as a subject matter expert as a service provider of tobacco cessation services. Freeha has also been invited to speak about the benefits of motivational interviewing as it relates physical fitness of seniors.