What is a practice coach?

Making meaningful change to improve outcomes.

Practice coaches, usually outside experts, are individuals who work with primary care practices to  make meaningful changes designed to improve patient outcomes. Practice coaches are trained professionals who collaborate with practices throughout the challenging—and rewarding—process of change.  
 
By providing ongoing mentoring in employing quality concepts and technical assistance, coaches help practices define and achieve improvements in patient care. Coaches also help providers and improvement teams develop the skills they need to adapt clinical evidence to the specific circumstances of their practice environment.
 
Health care organizations initiating quality improvement programs may seek the support of practice coaches if they have little internal experience with identifying and implementing change. More experienced practices may use a coach to learn more advanced strategies, move past a stalled position, or to “harvest” ideas from other practices. Practice coaches can bring expertise on specific content areas, approaches, and resources to facilitate implementation of quality improvement activities. They also can assist practices in creating a customized strategy to plan for and manage change successfully. Practice coaches perform multiple functions to accomplish these tasks. Coaches can:
 
Create capacity for ambulatory quality improvement
Facilitate implementation of planned changes
Connect practice-level changes to broader quality improvement efforts
Educate practices on quality improvement initiatives
 
Compiled by Jen Powell, an AF4Q technical advisor working with the Improving Performance in Practice (IPIP) Technical Support Team.