A lot of health and wellness coaches would like to order labs and interpret those lab results so that they can provide more tailored, specific advice to their clients about their nutrition and dietary needs. Unfortunately, unless the coach is a licensed health care professional in the state in which their client resides, such as a physician or dietitian, ordering labs and interpreting those labs to provide specific advice is likely outside of the coach’s scope of practice.
The least risky way to practice health and wellness coaching is to offer services that support, encourage and educate clients. Diving into individualized advice goes beyond core coaching services and runs the risk of violating a licensed clinical practice, such as medicine, dietetics or psychology.
Nevertheless, coaches may want clients to at least be aware of their dietary metrics, such as one’s metabolic panel, thyroid panel, hormone levels, and levels of nutrients in one’s blood. Many of these tests can be ordered directly by the individual consumer. This is called “Direct Access Testing” or DAT, as there is no need for a physician order. (Usually, only licensed physicians and sometimes other types of licensed professionals can order labs, prescriptions, inpatient treatment, home health care, etc. Unlicensed wellness professionals, and even many other types of licensed professionals, do not have the power to order other types of health care services or products.)
So, what can health and wellness coaches do with DAT lab panels? Can they ask their clients to request those panels, and can they interpret them?
DAT laboratory panels may not be available in every state
Even if certain laboratory tests are available under DAT, not every state allows DAT. In fact, only 37 states in the U.S. allow some limited form of DAT. Twenty-five states do not prohibit DAT laboratory tests, and twelve have some limitations on DAT laboratory tests (i.e., they allow it, but only in certain circumstances. For example, Wisconsin and Indiana do not have any limitations on DAT laboratory tests that can be ordered by individual consumers, but New York allows consumers to order only HIV and Hepatitis C tests without a physician order. A good 50-state survey regarding DAT testing can be found here. As a result, if a health or wellness coach wants to suggest that a client obtain lab results through DAT, the coach should confirm that the client lives in a state that allows DAT for that type of test.
What can health and wellness coaches do with DAT laboratory test results?
The truth is, as noted above, not much. As soon as unlicensed health and wellness professionals start analyzing and interpreting lab results, they are likely wandering into licensed practice space. The unauthorized practice of medicine or other licensed practices is treated as a crime in many states. This might be why that even for DAT laboratory tests, some laboratories may require a physician order, just to make sure that any interpretation of the results is done legally. Health and wellness coaches who ask clients to obtain DAT laboratory tests should also urge those clients to see their Primary Care Physician or some other licensed professional who can analyze and interpret lab results within their scope of practice.
The Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC can help health and wellness professionals, whether licensed or not, stay in compliance and still be effective in the services they provide. Contact us today so we can help your health and wellness business thrive.