Weight gain continues to be a growing issue, with more than 70% of Americans over the age of 20 being overweight. Considering more than half of those are considered obese and well-known health risks associated with obesity – including high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes, type 2 Diabetes, and others – one has to wonder why the situation isn’t improving. With the availability of fitness trackers and meal plans, why are the numbers still increasing?
The general consensus is that what’s missing from most of these programs – including popular diets and eating programs, fitness regimens, and exercise plans – is a lack of expert intervention. It’s one thing to track steps, caloric burn and intake, weight, and other statistics. It’s another thing entirely to have regular visits with experts who can help evaluate progress and identify program elements that are most effective for individuals.
That’s where telehealth can play a major role in helping treat obesity.
Enabling real-time access to physicians, nutritionists, fitness coaches, psychologists, and others creates an ongoing relationship between experts and patients. It also allows providers to monitor and review data – both digitally collected and transmitted using telehealth platforms and connected devices as well as manually provided information – to assess progress, provide accurate feedback, and adjust programs.
Changes in weight, blood pressure, and heart rate, along with activity volume can all be automatically transmitted into patient records using connected scales, fitness trackers, and BP cuffs. Food and water intake, along with waist or height measurements can be manually entered by patients.
One of the primary excuses for not starting weight management programs is lack of time for regular follow-ups. In addition to allowing for remote monitoring and data collection, telehealth solutions also enable video-based meetings between experts and patients, taking time and distance out of the equation and making sessions more convenient for both patients and providers.
A recent study compared telehealth-based weight management to self-managed programs found that the average weight loss between the two groups differed significantly. Over a 12-week period, the telehealth group experienced an average of 16 pounds, while the control group only lost 3 pounds on average. The difference between the two groups was weekly video coaching and feedback sessions for the telehealth groups, while the control group received no feedback after an initial consultation.
The combination of structured programs combined with regular virtual meetings allows new technologies to be integrated into weight management protocols to not only increase effectiveness, but to extend service capabilities to patients who have limited or no ability to commit to in-person follow-up visits. While self-monitoring isn’t typically enough to sustain a weight management program, integrating it with telehealth-based data collection and coaching sessions makes committing to weight management more convenient and simpler. It also has the benefit of removing any stigma attached to seeking treatment for obesity.
Telehealth can effectively remove most barriers to participation is weight management programs where self-monitoring and tracking apps typically are not a long-term solution. Integrating expert consultations and coaching with monitoring and data collection, on the other hand, can encourage weight loss and a generally healthier society.
To find out how telehealth solutions can be integrated into your services, click here.