My doctor is a digital coach

 In Healthcare and Life Sciences

Thanks to many of you who have shared your comments on my earlier post titled ’Listen…the prescription for being a coach’. Your insightful comments have prompted me to update the post as follows:

A few weeks ago, I visited my new doctor in the Bay Area for my regular health checkup.  My previous doctor recently retired and he referred me to my new doctor, who was his student.

I expected the session to be like the ones I use to have; the doctor would look at my test results, ask a few questions, point out where I need to improve and suggest some goals to achieve, talk about diet, exercise and medication, etc.… and ask to see me in 3-4 months. I would try to do these, get mixed results and dread the next visit.

But this visit was different – more than I could have ever expected. As soon as my new doctor entered the room, she sat in front of her terminal, looked up my records and started the dialogue which lasted for over 50 minutes!  We talked  about everything related to my health from what I eat in a typical day , when and what  types of physical activities I do,  the medicines,  my work and life, the improvements I wanted to make and how I can get to  them, etc.  It was a relaxed conversation where she spent more time asking than telling, showing genuine interest, appreciating the things I am doing well, and helping me learn and discover.

Co-created my health plan
She was typing briskly all along which kept the conversation going at a good pace covering lots of ground.  Only when she started going through what she had typed did I realize she had created a detailed plan along with me to get to the improvements we had discussed. It included recommendations for a mobile app, Websites on nutrition, and charts to record and track!  It had a nice structure and intuitively simple daily plans and tracking.  She wanted to meet in a month to review how the plan was coming along.

Digital Doctor
I commented she was a digital doctor and her response was it was indeed true that doctors who had started practicing in the 1990s were quite comfortable with computers and software. The recommendations for apps, websites and other digital tools the doctor used was a transformative experience for me and seemed to point the digital age we are in whether you are a consumer, employee, partner, parent, spouse, etc. As more and more doctors become digital, you can think of the endless possibilities these present- personalized care, better experience, connections and support, etc.

My doctor as a coach
But, there was something else which was equally powerful.  When I walked out with the printout in hand, I felt happy it was my plan that the doctor had helped me create.  I still feel the same excitement in carrying out the plan and look forward to the next visit in a week. I felt the doctor had acted as an expert coach and helped me get good at something meaningful to me.

Managers as good coaches
I started thinking about how relevant this would to the business world and started looking and found these and other interesting articles on how critical coaching is to attract, develop  your talent and achieve your business goals:  https://hbr.org/2014/06/finding-the-balance-between-coaching-and-managing;https://hbr.org/2014/07/you-cant-be-a-great-manager-if-youre-not-a-good-coach; http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach   Interestingly,  these point to several attributes of a good coach that I saw in my doctor

  • Listen  Deeply:  Your team members feel  reassured and deeply validated when you are actively listening with an open mind
  • Ask and don’t tell:  Let your team members articulate their goals, clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action
  • Create and sustain a trusting alliance: The more you follow through on supporting your team members’ developmental plans, the more productive your coaching becomes, and the more engaged you all become. It’s a virtuous cycle

Aren’t we all digital coaches?
It made me wonder why coaching has to be only with the doctors and managers. Our lawyers, accountants, athletic coaches, teachers, or other professionals can all be our expert coaches and help us enhance our lives.
How can I be that digital coach to provide similar value and experience to my customer as I had received from my doctor?

A recent Fortune article talks about ‘employee coaching’ as a key trend to watch for in 2016:

I am positive many of you are quite aware of these and already taking steps in your companies to increase the level of coaching. It would be great if you can share your thoughts on these and the actions and results you are seeing.

Image Credits: Unity Stoakes

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