Randomized Controlled Trial of Health Coaching for Parents of Children With Medical Complexity

Eli Sprecher*, Sara Toomey, Alexandra Epee-Bounya, Barbara Hernandez, Tiffany Le, Kathleen Conroy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objective: Parents of children with medical complexity (CMCs) struggle with managing their children's care needs. Health coaching provides patients with tools to take ownership of their care. We sought to assess the impact of health coaching for parents of CMCs on activation, child's health related quality of life (HRQL), and utilization. Methods: Parents of CMCs receiving primary care at two academic primary care practices were randomized to receive 3–6 months of coaching from a trained health coach (n = 54) or usual care (n = 71). Parents were surveyed on activation, HRQL, and experience of care at baseline and the end of the study period. Markers of utilization (missed visit rates, ED, and admissions) were measured for 12 months prior to and after enrollment. Parametric, nonparametric, and Poisson regression were used to assess baseline differences in characteristics and average pre-post differences between the groups. Results: At baseline, activation and rating of patient experience were high in both groups, while HRQL was one standard deviation below the population-based mean. Both groups had slight increases in HRQL and P-PAM without significant differences between groups. ED visits declined significantly more in the intervention group than the usual care group (0.68 visits, (−0.03, −1.32) P =. 04); there were nonsignificant differences in changes in other utilization metrics. Conclusion: Health coaching was associated with a decrease in ED use but not in changes in activation, patient experience, or HRQL. More inquiry is needed to understand whether health coaching is an effective modality for improving care for children with medical complexity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1482-1488
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
CIGNA foundation
Department of Accountable Care
Division of Accountable Care


    • children with medical complexity
    • health coaching
    • parental activation


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