Virtual Primary Care for the Treatment of Obesity
Nearly 42% of American adults have obesity which increases the risk of other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.1,2 Losing weight directly improves health outcomes. A review from the Mayo Clinic found that “maintaining weight loss of 5% to 10% for 1 or more years is associated with improvements in major risk factors.”3
Along with a healthy and clinically monitored routine of diet and exercise, counseling is a successful way to promote weight loss. The same Mayo Clinic review also found that “patients receiving behavioral counseling lost more than 8% of body weight during the first year and, at year 8, 50% of patients maintained a 5% or more loss.”
Virtual primary care is a digital-first model that provides clinically competent counseling and hands-on weight-loss treatments with convenient and comfortable virtual visits for patients to engage with their doctors, here’s how:
Sometimes patients who are obese do not seek medical care because of the in-person office setting. The Mayo Clinic review states, “Many people with obesity feel stigmatized and unwelcome in the clinic [because] waiting room furniture, weighing scales or examination tables are of insufficient capacity for heavier patients.” Virtual primary care overcomes this barrier by allowing patients with obesity to receive care in a more comfortable setting of their choosing.
More Time with Doctors for Unique Treatment Plans
Doctors themselves often do not properly counsel patients who are obese and need to lose weight. Physician barriers include limited time, shortage of resources and inadequate reimbursement. Historic fee-for-service payment encourages doctors to see patients as quickly as possible, contributing to these barriers. With virtual primary care, patients spend more time with their doctors to ensure the right treatment plans are identified. The patient's experience is improved with hands-on, value-based care.
Virtual primary care is key to removing cost barriers. Offered as part of employer-sponsored benefits packages, virtual primary care is little-to-no-cost for patients and their family members. Patients can have more frequent visits at no cost to them. Virtual primary care practices arranged in this way are financially aligned to spend the time necessary to counsel patients on weight loss. Plus, virtual visits do not incur claims.
Convenient, More Frequent Visits
Another barrier to effective weight-loss counseling is the frequent visits necessary to achieve results. Guidelines recommend that initial counseling should be weekly or biweekly, followed by monthly counseling sessions for 6 months, followed by less frequent long-term maintenance counseling. Asking a patient to come to a doctor’s office that frequently is unrealistic.
With the convenience of virtual visits, virtual primary care makes it easier to accomplish such frequent visits since it eliminates travel time, travel expense, the need to arrange for childcare, the need to take off from work and time wasted in an office waiting room.
First Stop Health Virtual Primary Care
Virtual Primary Care is a powerful way to put these evidence-based approaches into practice. Phone and video conversations in Virtual Primary Care facilitate shared decision making between doctor and patient by reducing the time and space barriers to patient communication. Patients have more frequent, longer visits (35 minutes on average), keeping them engaged in their healthcare journey to ensure they are on track with their weight-loss journey.