A recent study has shown that telemedicine for weight loss is effective in helping participants lose significantly more weight than individuals who do not engage in remote health coaching. Combined with physical activity monitoring and low glycemic carbohydrates, the key component appears to be ongoing support through weekly telemedicine sessions with a health coach.
As described in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telcare, the study participants began with an average BMI of 34.6 and engaged in a 12-week weight loss program via telemedicine. Each individual received a blood pressure monitor, an accelerometer, and a body composition scale, all of which provided real-time feedback. At the start of the program, a physician gave each patient a caloric deficit diet designed to effect a body weight loss of one or two pounds per week.
The individuals were assigned to either the intervention group with weekly telemedicine visits with a health coach, or a control group with no such interactions except at the beginning and end of the study. Throughout the study, everyone received information about nutrition, weight loss tips, self monitoring, and goal setting; the only difference was the control group’s lack of ongoing telemedicine visits with the health coach during the course of the study.
The researchers found that the intervention group lost on average over four times as much weight as the control group, and far more participants in the intervention group lost a clinically significant amount of weight than the control group. The study authors noted that people who want to lose weight often attempt to self-monitor, but this approach seldom brings about long-term change without direct feedback from a healthcare provider. The high level of regular engagement with a health coach appears to be crucial to successful weight loss.
The research team looks forward to an increased use of telemedicine-based health coaching and patient education resources to help people reach their long-term weight goals.
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