Veterans and VA health care providers at Erie VA Medical Center have a new way to support Veterans' efforts to improve their health and well-being. Telephone Lifestyle Coaching (TLC) is a pilot program designed to help Veterans achieve personal health goals. Convenient and Veteran-centered, TLC uses coaches to call Veterans when and where they want so there is no need to visit a medical center or CBOC to participate. The TLC coaches are skilled in helping patients set and meet health goals. They provide motivation and accountability for Veterans who want to eat wisely, be physically active, and manage their stress.
National TLC Program Manager Sophia Hurley, VHA National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP) says, "Veterans who need a little extra help getting started and meeting goals like quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol, or managing their weight will benefit from TLC. To start the program, Veterans simply need to let their health care provider know they would like to enroll and then be prepared to receive a call from their coach at a time they prefer. Once the Veteran expresses an interest in making changes in one or more of the six health behaviors, a member of his or her health care team may refer the Veteran to TLC via the consult process in the electronic medical record. From there, the TLC coach will manage the process, including documentation in the patient's medical record and contacting health care team members as needed."
Participating Veterans receive nine scheduled coaching calls, and can call in to their coach anytime during their participation if they need additional support. With the exception of Federal holidays, coaches are available from 7:00 am to midnight, Monday through Friday, and from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday in all continental US time zones. "Most calls last less than 30 minutes," explains Hurley, "and Veterans should anticipate a call from their coach at the time they indicated on their consult. Veterans can think of this as a telephone appointment."
The program is currently in a pilot phase at 24 selected VA medical centers until June 2013. "Our clinicians are telling us they're seeing positive results in patients who use TLC. They feel confident about the additional care patients receive from their TLC coaches," says Dr. Linda Kinsinger, VHA Chief Consultant for Preventive Medicine. "Clinicians also are seeing excellent participation rates" adds Hurley. "It's so easy for a Veteran to enroll, participate, and succeed in TLC."