As a health coach, wouldn't it be handy if we could see exactly what was going inside our client's bodies? Biomarker analysis allows us to do just that. All that is required is a biological sample which is then sent to a lab for testing. Here, scientists perform analysis on a panel of biomarkers, and this provides insight into an individual's unique biomarker profile.
Sounds pretty awesome doesn't it? So, can health coaches order labs?
Technically only medical doctors can order and interpret lab results, but there are a growing number of direct-access testing services that make it possible for health coaches to use this important information.
In this post, we'll explore:
- How health coaches can access lab testing.
- How you can use this information to guide your clients towards improved health.
- How lab testing fits into the broader picture of precision health.
The Importance of Precision Health
Gone are the days of sickness-driven medicine. Unlike traditional healthcare, precision health strives to identify illness before it strikes. It does so by taking into account an individual's unique health status. This preventative strategy brings together several areas of health and medicine, including:
- Family history of chronic metabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.
- Personal devices such as smart phones and smart wearables that can keep track of health data including an individual's heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, all in real-time.
- Medical options to prevent illness in individuals with inherited conditions. For example women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a greater risk of breast and ovarian cancer and may consider proactive medical interventions to reduce their risk of developing cancer.
- Biomarker analysis provides insight into an individual's risk of developing chronic metabolic disease. Direct-access testing bypasses the need for a doctor's visit to get this done. We'll discuss how this works in more detail next.
Direct-access testing, also referred to as direct-to-consumer lab testing, is a relatively new concept. It allows the consumer to access health testing without the need for a doctor's visit.
There are a growing number of companies offering this straight-to-consumer service. These services allow consumers and healthcare practitioners (that aren't medical doctors) such as health coaches, to gain access to lab testing directly. Here's a 7-step summary of how the process works:
- The direct-access testing service connects a consumer with a nearby lab testing facility.
- Sample collection takes place at the lab testing facility. This can be a nasal or mouth swab, a urine or stool sample, or a blood sample.
- Lab testing is performed at the lab testing facility. This can include analysis for disease biomarkers or specific genetic or biological conditions.
- The lab testing facility sends the medical results to the direct-access testing service.
- Medical doctors employed by the direct-access testing service interpret the lab results and prepare a report based on the lab results.
- The results and report are sent to the consumer and their coach, usually through a secure online portal.
- The coach references the doctor's recommendations in the report and helps their client implement the suggested lifestyle changes for improved health outcomes.
The general population can access labs without a healthcare professional, through direct-access testing. Knowledge is powerful, but it can come with a dark side. For some people, gaining access to their medical data without guidance from a healthcare provider can lead to misinterpretation of their lab results. In some instances, this can result in unnecessary interventions and further health complications can ensue.
But, what if there was a healthcare professional knowledgeable and willing to guide their clients through their lab reports? This is where health coaches come into the picture.
Next, we'll dive into the role of the health coach and how they can help their clients with their lab data.
What Does a Health Coach Do?
Health coaches are in the business of helping people live healthier lives. They are the ultimate cheerleaders, motivators and accountability experts. Health coaching is a relatively young profession, and there are a variety of different career paths that can be taken.
Traditional health coaching can be performed 1:1 or in groups, either face-to-face or online. Health coaches can run their own private practice, or work in a corporate setting for a wellness company, or an insurance company.
Health coaches take a holistic approach with their clients. They use a variety of proven strategies to improve the health outcomes of their patients and guide them through their healing journey. Some of the behavior change strategies health coaches use include:
- Goal setting
- Healthy habit formation
- Implementing accountability strategies
- Health education
- Motivational interviewing
- Positive psychology processes
In most instances a health coach will specialize in a specific coaching niche. Most successful coaches will work within their niche and target one or two specific health concerns or health issues including:
- Hormonal imbalances
- Stress management
- Promoting physical activity
- Reach specific health goals
- Guidance with healthy eating
Can Health Coaches Order Labs?
Health coaches play a crucial role in fighting against chronic metabolic disease.
If we circle back to the original question, "Can health coaches order labs?" Technically medical doctors are the only licensed healthcare professional legally able to order or interpret labs. But, direct-access testing has enabled health coaches to use this information to guide their clients in a more personalized tailored manner.
If you're a health coach, or an aspiring health coach, it's important that you understand the role health coaching plays in our healthcare system, and how we can use lab testing, while staying in our scope of practice.
Health Coaching Scope of Practice
Scope of practice describes the procedures, actions and processes that a healthcare professional is legally permitted to perform based on their professional license. If you're working as a health coach, and this includes vlogging, blogging or creating content for your TikTok account, it's important to understand your general scope of practice, as this will protect you from future liabilities and lawsuits.
Because health coaching is a relatively new field, the general scope of practice for health coaching varies depending on where you live and work. The information found here is for general information purposes only. It's important to check what you're covered for as a health coach in your state or country.
As a blanket rule, health coaches are not licensed to diagnose, treat or prescribe any treatments, diet plans or blood tests.
Instead health coaches provide clients with support and guidance implementing a food plan, or introducing nutrition supplements prescribed by a doctor, physician or registered dietitian. A health coach can educate their clients on how to shop for groceries, or read the nutrition labels on packaged foods, suggest healthy recipes, introduce a fitness plan, or discuss the results outlined in a lab test report as part of their disease management strategy advised by their licensed provider.
How to Use Labs as a Health Coach
Health coaches can use lab testing with their clients, through a direct-access testing service such as Precision Health Reports.
In this scenario, a health coach is within their scope of practice as the analysis and interpretation of the lab results are performed by a medical doctor employed by the direct-access testing service. The health coach can then guide their clients through the process of implementing the necessary nutrition and lifestyle changes based on their personalized biomarker analysis report.
So, can health coaches order labs? Whilst health coaches are not licensed to order or interpret lab tests, direct-access testing services allow health coaches and their clients to access lab testing without the need to visit a doctor's office.