Telemedicine for Weight Loss? New Study Shows Effectiveness

Resolving to lose weight in the coming year is one of the most common New Years resolutions there is. As with most New Years resolutions, of course, it’s probably easier said than done. But could telemedicine help to keep people on track to meet their New Years weight loss goals? According to the results of one new study, the answer is yes. As MobiHealthNews first reported, a study recently published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telcare found that obese patients who had telemedicine nutrition consults lost more weight than their counterparts who did not have such consults. “Our findings suggest that health coaching using a telemedicine-based weight loss program may be effective at reducing clinically significant body weight (more than five percent) in obese adults,” the authors wrote.

The study followed 25 obese participants over the course of 12 weeks, with 13 receiving an intervention that involved weekly telemedicine visits with a registered dietician, and 12 being assigned to a control group. All had access to American Well’s Amwell video-conferencing platform. The telemedicine intervention, the researchers explain, “combine[d] 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.” Ultimately, the researchers found that those in the intervention group lost a good deal more weight than those in the control group (7.16 versus 1.5 percent of total body weight, respectively), with nine losing what the researchers deemed “a clinically significant amount of weight.”

This isn’t the first study to highlight the benefits of virtual interventions for promoting patient weight loss. As we reported last year, a retrospective study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) shed light on the potential of mHealth to promote patient weight loss and improved heart health. In that study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that, when combined with digital coaching, using the Vida Health app helped patients to both lose weight and improve their blood pressure. “Mobile phone app-based health coaching interventions can be an acceptable and effective means to promote weight loss and improve blood pressure management in overweight or obese individuals,” the researchers explained. “As mobile phones continue to penetrate the consumer market, digital health coaching may serve as a promising model to increase access to evidence-based behavioral coaching for obesity and related cardiovascular conditions.” Similarly, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), working in collaboration with Harvard Vanguard, developed an intervention that had positive results for children and families alike by using mHealth technology to connect people to community resources—a crucial component of weight-loss programs.

Click here to read the MobiHealthNews article on the use of telemedicine for weight loss. 

Click here to read the abstract of the Journal of Telemedicine and Telcare article on the use of telemedicine for weight loss (full article requires payment).

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