Here Is How Your Doctor Can Help You Lose Weight

Patients who rated their physicians ‘helpful’ lost an average of 11 pounds, compared to those who lost around 5 pounds and rated their physicians low on helpfulness.

After reviewing survey data of over 300 obese participants from a federally-funded weight loss clinical trial, researchers from Johns Hopkins conclude that, despite rates of weight loss being nominal, patients with supportive and helpful primary care physicians lost twice as much weight than others. These findings suggest that the development of weight loss programs requires the healthcare physician be assigned a primary role.

Study: Assessing Role Of Physicians In Weight Loss Programs  

It has been long established that a strong patient-doctor relationship, based on empathy, collaboration, communication and trust, is associated with better observance of medicine schedules, appointments and leads to improved outcomes. Wendy L. Bennett, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Primary Care Physician at Johns Hopkins Bay View Medical Center, said that previous studies stated poor relationship statistics between obese patients and their doctors, highlighted evidence of disrespect and weight bias.

To figure out the aspects affecting such relationships, and in turn influencing weight loss, Dr Bennett and her research team analyzed data acquired by Johns Hopkins’ Practice-based Opportunities for Weight Reduction (POWER) trial – a randomized, controlled two-year study. During the trial, certain patients worked with health coaches, the efforts of whom were supervised by primary care physicians.

After the trial was over, the patients were given surveys asking about their relationship with their primary care physician. Information was obtained about how cooperative the physicians were, how clearly they explained things, how attentive and respectful they were, and how all these factors helped the patients during the trial.  

Of a total 347 obese patients – BMI of average 36.3 – approximately 63 percent were women and about 40 percent were African-American. Moreover, each individual had one of three cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia or diabetes.  

Analyzing Results: Working Together Is Key To Success

Analysis of the survey revealed that almost all the 347 patients had high-quality relationships with their physicians. Despite having a limited effect on weight loss, the patients who rated their physicians as being ‘helpful’ lost an average of 11 pounds during the trial, compared to those who lost around 5 pounds and rated their physicians low on helpfulness.

The report was published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, and concludes that new reimbursement models should be developed for physician-guided weight loss interventions, enabling more team-based healthcare goals.  

Dr Bennett also said that the findings highlight the importance of providers in patients’ weight loss regimes. She added that most weight loss programs are run commercially, and patients enroll in such activities without consulting their physicians.

“Incorporating physicians into future programs might lead patients to more successful weight loss”, Dr Bennett remarked.

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