3 ways virtual IT helps lose real weight

'Obesity is either the cause of, or associated with, all the chronic conditions' in the U.S.
By Jeff Rowe
02:35 PM

The Internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s little doubt that too much time spent online contributes to increasingly sedentary patterns of behavior. On the other, it offers a wealth of information and programs designed to help people lose weight.

Neal Kaufman, MD, is founder and chief medical officer for DPS Health, and a few years ago, after a long career as a Los Angeles-based clinician in the field of public health, he became “very interested in how IT has the capacity to transform the way healthcare is delivered by taking interventions that work one-on-one and automating them.”

The outcome of that curiosity was DPS, which offers a software-as-a-service program called Virtual Life Management to help diabetes patients who are struggling with weight problems. Kaufman said he decided to focus on addressing weight loss needs because, "From a health perspective, obesity is either the cause of, or associated with, all the chronic conditions" affecting the United States.

As Kaufman sees it, there are three advantages from which both patients and providers can benefit with virtual programs:

  • Providers can focus on traditionally neglected areas. Everyone knows obesity is a problem associated with chronic conditions, Kaufman said, but not surprisingly providers tend to get caught up treating the actual disease, which leaves little time to address supposedly ancillary issues such as obesity.  Incorporating virtual services into their patient regimen, however, enables them to be both more efficient and more comprehensive in the care they provide.
  • Patients get both flexibility and 24/7 attention. With virtual services, patients can access their customized program, whether online or by cell phone, whenever they wish.  As for providers, they can give patients the latitude to manage their own weight loss efforts, while also using the program both to monitor progress and offer periodic reminders and encouragement.
  • Virtual programs can treat large populations efficiently. According to Kaufman, "The most important paradigm shift is the concept that says technology can automate interventions that have been proven to work in person."  With the expanded reach of virtual programs, he explained, providers can treat larger numbers of patients “but also still maintain the intimate relationship” they’re used to having.  Virtual programs also lower care costs by reducing the amount of time clinicians and their staff need to spend with each patient.

In short, he says, given their efficiency and effectiveness with large populations of patients, virtual weight loss programs aren’t just the next best thing to being there – they’re actually just as good.

[See also: Virtual assistants appeal to docs]

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