Patients Appreciate Increased Physician Involvement When It Comes to Losing Weight

The primary care doctor's involvement in a patient's weight-loss program can significantly improve patient outcomes, a study published in Patient Education & Counseling has found.

Losing weight might be about diet, exercise, and lifestyle, but it’s also about patient appreciation of the doctor’s involvement. This was the conclusion drawn by a trial that surveyed the patient-provider relation in a weight loss trial, the results of which have been published in the journal Patient Education & Counseling.

POWER was a practice-based randomized controlled trial that evaluated behavioral weight loss based on the analysis of patient questionnaires and physician surveys. The primary trial outcome, meaning weight change, was evaluated 2 years post initiation after adjusting for randomization assignment, age, gender, race, and clinical site. Evaluation of nearly 350 participants found that while the quality of the patient-provider relation was not a big influence, those who rated their primary care physician (PCP)’s support as being useful lost significantly greater weight (average of 11 lbs) than those who did not receive intervention (average of 5 lbs).

More than 60% of the survey participants were female and 40% were African American; all were obese with an average body mass index of 36.3. Participants had to answer questions on their relation with their PCP, including details on clear and respectful communication.

“This trial supports other evidence that providers are very important in their patients' weight loss efforts,” said Wendy L. Bennett, MD, MPH, and lead author on the study that was conducted at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, adding that patients often join commercially run weight loss programs without their physician's knowledge. “Incorporating physicians into future programs might lead patients to more successful weight loss.”

The results of this study provide evidence to develop more team-based care models, she thinks, which are not very common but could have a tremendous impact.