Digital coaching via text messages can contribute to healthier habits and well-being

Coaching via text messages can contribute to healthier habits and a better sense of well-being. This is shown in a study where researchers at Service Research Center at Karlstad University, together with Friskvården i Värmland, have examined how digital services can complement physical meetings and facilitate behavioral change.

Changing your habits to a healthier way of life is not easy. New research at Service Research Center, CTF, shows that personal, digital coaching via text messages increases the chances of success.

- Text coaching increased the clients' ability to reach the desired target behavior. Their well-being and level of physical activity also increased, as well as the trust in the health consultants, says Charlotte Bäccman, senior lecturer in Psychology at CTF. For the service to be truly effective, it needs to assist in remind and support the clients in finding opportunities actively engage in the desired behavior. Many clients seem to be more aware of their own responsibility in the process of change, which is important for maintaining the new behavior. With a few exceptions, everyone who participated in the study wanted to continue receiving coaching via text messaging.

For a healthier life

Clients and health consultants at Friskvården i Värmland, a non-profit organization aiming to increase the health of the region's residents, participated in the study. A majority of the clients come there via either healthcare referrals or their employers in order to learn how to live a healthier life.

In-between the physical meetings, the health coaches sent personal text messages to remind, motivate and encourage a group of clients. The researchers compared the clients who received coaching via text messages and physical meetings, to those who only had physical meetings. The clients rated their well-being through self-evaluations. The researchers studied the clients' ability, opportunity and motivation for change.

- Today, there is a plethora of digital health apps designed to support behavioral change, but few of these can be adjusted to meet the unique challenges and needs of the individual, says Charlotte Bäccman. Consequently, we wanted to examine if and how tailor-made text coaching can support behavioral change in individuals with different challenges and needs.

Can improve the wellness process

From the perspective of the health coaches, this service provides added value beyond the regular health consultations.

- Beyond an increased flexibility, they also get to know their clients more and become a part of their everyday life, says Charlotte Bäccman. Motivation is not the only determining factor in behavioral change. Continuity is also important, and this is where text coaching can be a good complement when physical meetings are not enough. The service also provided added value during the pandemic, since the clients could receive coaching despite restrictions.

- We had the privilege to participate in this study and try text coaching as a tool for behavioral change, says Per Hjalmarsson, head of operations at Friskvården i Värmland. It has provided us with valuable experiences and increased knowledge about a method that can bolster the wellness process in the dialogue with our clients, and reinforce their motivation and ability to change their habits. We were inspired to implement this method as a part of our activities.

- This study demonstrates the importance of co-creation in health processes and the positive effect it can have on individuals and their abilities. In this case, Friskvården i Värmland, becomes a part of the individual's everyday life, which makes it easier to reach the desired outcomes, says Charlotte Bäccman.

The study is part of the DigitalWell Arena initiative, which aims to promote new, innovative digital health and wellness applications.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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