Your online dietician will see you now

Weight loss may begin in the doctor's office, but new research suggests that online programs can be quite effective, too.

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that patients enrolled in the e-Care Heart Wellness project were more likely to have lost 10 pounds in six months if they had secure access to a dietitian than if they only received information and usual care.

"One patient said, 'It's like having a dietitian in your pocket,'" said Beverly B. Green, M.D., MPH, a family doctor at Group Health, an associate investigator at Group Health Research Institute, and an assistant clinical professor in family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "The patients really loved this intervention – and having access to a dietitian to work with them toward a healthier lifestyle."

E-care associated with better health outcomes

Patients who were part of the intervention group that received access to a dietitian were also given a home blood pressure monitor, a scale, and a pedometer. Working with the dietitian, they created a diet and lifestyle plan to help reduce their cardiovascular and metabolic risk factors.

The dietitian visits were followed up by secure messaging through a website to report their weight, blood pressure and diet. The patients received ongoing feedback from the dietitians and doctors when they got off track or needed to make changes that would better serve their health.

Dietitian "e-care" was associated with better health outcomes and patient satisfaction than those reported in the group receiving usual care.

"Heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of death in the United States, but they don't have to be," said Green. "If people had better control of their heart risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol, and we could prevent or decrease obesity, we could cut the number of heart deaths in half."

Previous research from Green also showed that e-care helped patients better manage their blood pressure than office visits.

The next step, she said, is more research.

"We're planning a larger randomized controlled trial, where we will tailor the e-care for the patients who have hypertension," said Green. "We'll pair each patient with either a pharmacist or a dietitian, depending on their individual needs."

Source: Group Health Research Institute

Photo credit: Praisaeng/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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