Does Coaching Improve Engagement and Outcomes? It Depends.
What we really need to understand—if we truly want to realize the promise of digital—is how to provide the right level of coaching at the right time to each user.
The promise of digital health has always been about delivering personalization at scale. Instead, the marketplace offers far too many one-size-fits-all solutions that are essentially tech-delivered human coaching.
In this way, digital has simply paved the initial path by taking an analog experience and moving it to a digital environment. While this may be more convenient for some people, it doesn’t fully realize the potential of digital health solutions to increase access, lower costs, drive better engagement, and help people achieve better health outcomes.
Human Coaching—Necessary but Not Sufficient
Human coaching is a well-known mechanism to help encourage member engagement by providing a means of accountability and support. At Dario, we’re big fans of coaching and think that solutions with a coaching option are superior to solutions that don’t offer it at all.
However, much like anything in health care, simply giving everyone access to the same thing, such as coaching, doesn’t move the needle. It’s certainly not an efficient model, and it doesn’t necessarily improve outcomes for every user, and can be time-consuming and intrusive for people. For example, retail consumer experience abundantly confirms that people prefer a blend of self-service and human tools based on their unique needs and circumstances—don’t force me to talk to an agent for something that I can easily solve with a few clicks.
What we really need to understand—if we truly want to realize the promise of digital—is how to provide the right blend of coaching and digital tools at the right time to each user.
Asking the Right Questions
How much coaching does each user really need and when do they need it? When do users need more coaching, and when do they need less? What about people who prefer not to talk to a coach? How does the need for coaching change over time with individual users?
These are questions that Dario researchers are investigating, so we can use technology to optimize coaching for each person and determine when digital methods alone—such as automated prompts—can achieve superior results. Offering the convenience of digital, and adding in coaching when it matters most, is the one-two punch that will increase overall engagement and bring down the total cost of care.
Studying the Coaching Effect
One particular study we just completed—which was presented on February 24, 2023, at the 18th International Conference on Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes—is a step in the right direction toward understanding which, based on their illness and level of engagement, requires coaching and how they benefit from it.
We studied people with type 2 diabetes and determined that some users demonstrating a higher level of digital engagement didn’t use coaching to adopt the necessary behavior changes to help achieve an optimal reduction in blood glucose levels—they improved their blood glucose without coaching
More Coaching Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better Outcomes
Over-coaching can be intrusive, raises costs, and isn’t necessary to drive improved outcomes in all cases. Rather than just forcing everyone into human coaching whether they want it or not, we must parse the details for coaching optimization among users. If we’re going to realize the promise of personalization at scale that digital offers, we must get smart about who will respond to coaching at each point in time. Dario is proud to lead the research in this area and share our insights on how digital health solutions can develop more targeted and efficient engagement strategies to help deliver the best possible outcomes in the most efficient way possible, improving our user’s health and delivering on industry-leading returns-on-investment.