Original Article

Patients Desire Personalized, Specific, and Continuous Advice on Weight Management

Authors: Elizabeth R. Pfoh, PhD, MPH, Russell Flench, MDes, N. Homa Varghai, MD, Michelle King, , Leslie J. Heinberg, PhD


Objective: To deliver effective care, healthcare systems should understand patients’ preferences for weight management across a spectrum of needs. Our objective was to describe patients’ perceptions of what helps or hinders weight loss and maintenance.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with patients who accessed weight management services at a large integrated health system in 2018. The interview guide was developed and iteratively refined through a literature search and by consulting experts. Questions included the respondent’s weight history, interactions with the health system, and current health status. The analysis used a grounded theory approach, and each transcript was double-coded in 2019. Codes were sorted into themes. All discrepancies were resolved through team discussion.

Results: Fifteen patients were interviewed. The majority of respondents (87%) reported multiple weight loss attempts. Three themes were identified. First, advice should be matched to a patient’s knowledge and prior experience (eg, using bariatric deck cards). As patients progressed, clinician advice also needed to advance (eg, explaining how to expand food options instead of defining a healthy diet). Second, respondents had a variety of motivating factors, and understanding where motivation is generated from can inform how to design a weight management approach. Third, patients need continual and long-term advice. Some respondents feared becoming ineligible for services if their weight dropped too much.

Conclusions: Health systems can support patients by developing processes for identifying the extent of a patient’s knowledge and giving personalized advice based on the patient’s preferences and experiences. Reassessing needs at defined intervals may help patients attain and sustain their goals.

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