Open Access Open Badges Research article

Health coaching in primary care: a feasibility model for diabetes care

Clare Liddy12*, Sharon Johnston12, Kate Nash1, Natalie Ward3 and Hannah Irving1

Author Affiliations

1 C.T. Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre, Bruyère Research Institute, 43 Bruyere St., Annex E, Ottawa, ON K1N 5C8, Canada

2 Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa, 43 Bruyere St., Annex E, Ottawa, ON K1N 5C8, Canada

3 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-60

Published: 3 April 2014



Health coaching is a new intervention offering a one-on-one focused self-management support program. This study implemented a health coaching pilot in primary care clinics in Eastern Ontario, Canada to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of integrating health coaching into primary care for patients who were either at risk for or diagnosed with diabetes.


We implemented health coaching in three primary care practices. Patients with diabetes were offered six months of support from their health coach, including an initial face-to-face meeting and follow-up by email, telephone, or face-to-face according to patient preference. Feasibility was assessed through provider focus groups and qualitative data analysis methods.


All three sites were able to implement the program. A number of themes emerged from the focus groups, including the importance of physician buy-in, wide variation in understanding and implementing of the health coach role, the significant impact of different systems of team communication, and the significant effect of organizational structure and patient readiness on Health coaches’ capacity to perform their role.


It is feasible to implement health coaching as an integrated program within small primary care clinics in Canada without adding additional resources into the daily practice. Practices should review their organizational and communication processes to ensure optimal support for health coaches if considering implementing this intervention.