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Can Tech Help Patients Better Understand How to Lose Weight?


Americans have inflated confidence in their knowledge of diet and weight loss.

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Three quarters of Americans say they’d feel better if they lost weight, and 85 percent say they know how to eat well, according to a new survey. But when asked to prove their knowledge by taking a basic quiz on dietary facts and weight loss, more than half—56 percent—failed.

Those are the findings of a new survey put out last week by MDVIP, a physician network focused on personalized “concierge” medicine.

According to chief medical officer Andrea Klemes, DO, FACE, the study demonstrates why patients shouldn’t go it alone when trying to lose weight.

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“We think we know what we’re supposed to do, but not everybody does,” she told Healthcare Analytics News. “So partnering with their physician to get that good information is helpful.”

That idea aligns well with MDVIP’s approach, in which patients pay a membership fee in exchange for a more personalized relationship with their physician. That relationship includes a two-hour annual sit-down meeting to discuss goals and craft an individual wellness plan.

The annual meeting includes a measurement on a metabolic scale, giving patients a much clearer reference point to use when tracking calories and exercise. For instance, the scale doesn’t only measure weight, but also fat and muscle.

“If you’ve only lost a pound, you can be frustrated,” she said. But if the scale indicates you lost 5 pounds of fat and gained 4 pounds of muscle, the patient will be more satisfied, and more accurately informed.

The study found 82 percent of patients are over their ideal weight, but only one in five said they have asked their physician for help in losing weight.

Eighty-three percent said they would be more motivated to lose weight if their physician suggested it. That’s important because 58 percent said a lack of motivation to stick with a diet or exercise plan is a leading reason they haven’t lost weight.

Klemes said her company works with physicians to integrate apps and technology in their patient care.

“We have tools to help the physician with diet, recipe searches, and workouts that they can prescribe,” she said. “And then, depending on the patient, of course you’d have them come in regularly to coach them.”

The use of technology in and of itself doesn’t directly translate into better-informed patients, as much of what’s available on the internet is inaccurate or lacks nuance. That’s another reason physician guidance is important. Klemes said her company partners with an outside vendor that provides physical therapy videos to help patients exercise the right way.

“So we knew that at least it was well researched and well done,” she said.

Klemes said another reason she thinks patients are misinformed is that information healthcare information has become ubiquitous—one day a study will claim a certain food is good for weight loss, and the next day a study will contradict that finding.

“I think it’s just there’s a lot of information out there, and then a lot of people have very strong beliefs when it comes to this,” she said.

Even physicians have their own biases. Some feel strongly that patients shouldn’t eat meat, while others believe the Mediterranean diet, or the Paleo Diet, or the Atkins Diet, is best.

“It’s a little bit like what’s your political party,” she said.

To give patients the highest chance of success, Klemes said physicians should strive to personalize.

“It’s got to be personalized,” she said. “One of the things that makes our physicians successful is when you really understand what’s best for a person.”

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