Study: Telemedicine helps people stay on track for weight loss goals


A recent study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telcare, found that obese patients who had a weekly telemedicine session with a clinician lost significantly more weight than their peers who did not. 

“Our findings suggest that health coaching using a telemedicine-based weight loss program may be effective at reducing clinically significant body weight (more than 5 percent) in obese adults,” authors of the study wrote. “The current weight loss program combines three key elements shown to improve weight loss outcomes: a low-calorie diet with a preference for low glycemic carbohydrates, physical activity monitoring, and support for behavior change through a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment.”

The intervention group lost on average 7.16 percent of their body weight, whereas the control group lost 1.5 percent. The results also show that nine out of 13 participants in the control group lost a clinically significant amount of weight, compare to one out of the 12 in the control group.
 
A total of 30 individuals between the ages of 23 and 64 with an average BMI of 34.6 were enrolled in the study. In the end 25 participants completed the study. All the participants were categorized as weight stable, were not tobacco users, did not have metabolic or renal disease, and were not using medications known to alter metabolism. 

Everyone in the study participated in a 12-week telemedicine-based weight loss program. All participants got an accelerometer, a blood pressure monitor and a body composition scale. The devices gave participants in both groups real-time feedback. All participants downloaded the Amwell video conferencing app. At the beginning of the study a doctor gave every participant a caloric deficit diet to induce body weight loss of between one and two pounds a week. 

Patients were either assigned to the video conferencing group with a health coach or the control group with no health coach.

During the the study, the intervention group got an online curriculum that gave nutrition and weight loss tips about triggers, self monitoring and goal setting. Then a registered dietitian gave users weekly feedback during a weekly video session. The control group got the same video conference-based exam and calorie recommendations at the beginning of the study but did not meet with a doctor or dietitian again until post intervention. 

Researchers noted that self-monitoring is the most common reason people download dieting apps but often that isn’t enough for people looking to lose weight. 

“The action of logging health-related information into the application including food choices, weight, and/or exercise duration provides instantaneous feedback for the user,” authors of the study wrote. “However, without direct feedback from a health care provider, self-monitoring is not often enough to promote long-term engagement or change. This was shown in the present study. Participants in the [control] group were provided the same Bluetooth devices, dietary recommendation, and applications. Participants in the group lost significantly more total body weight and increased their average steps per week, in comparison to the control group. Our study suggests that the high engagement of the group with their health coach contributed to this difference.” 

Researchers noted one of the study limitations was the fact that all participants had to have an iPhone in order to use the app, which could mean there was a bias towards people of higher social economic status. Technical challenges were another limitation. 

The research team said that in the future, more support of the use of video conferencing-based health coaching, in combination with patient education tools, could support more effective weight loss. 

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