Primary care providers' perspectives on online weight-loss programs: A big wish list

Kevin O. Hwang, Heather L. Stuckey, Monica C. Chen, Jennifer L. Kraschnewski, Samuel N. Forjuoh, Jennifer M. Poger, Kathleen M. McTigue, Christopher N. Sciamanna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

12 Scopus citations


Background: Integrating online weight-loss programs into the primary care setting could yield substantial public health benefit. Little is known about primary care providers' perspectives on online weight-loss programs. Objective: To assess primary care providers' perspectives on online weight-loss programs. Methods: We conducted focus group discussions with providers in family medicine, internal medicine, and combined internal medicine/pediatrics in Texas and Pennsylvania, USA. Open-ended questions addressed their experience with and attitudes toward online weight-loss programs; useful characteristics of existing online weight-loss programs; barriers to referring patients to online weight-loss programs; and preferred characteristics of an ideal online weight-loss program. Transcripts were analyzed with the grounded theory approach to identify major themes. Results: A total of 44 primary care providers participated in 9 focus groups. The mean age was 45 (SD 9) years. Providers had limited experience with structured online weight-loss programs and were uncertain about their safety and efficacy. They thought motivated, younger patients would be more likely than others to respond to an online weight-loss program. According to primary care providers, an ideal online weight-loss program would provide-at no cost to the patient-a structured curriculum addressing motivation, psychological issues, and problem solving; tools for tracking diet, exercise, and weight loss; and peer support monitored by experts. Primary care providers were interested in receiving reports about patients from the online weight-loss programs, but were concerned about the time required to review and act on the reports. Conclusions: Primary care providers have high expectations for how online weight-loss programs should deliver services to patients and fit into the clinical workflow. Efforts to integrate online weight-loss programs into the primary care setting should address efficacy and safety of online weight-loss programs in clinic-based populations; acceptable methods of sending reports to primary care providers about their patients' progress; and elimination or reduction of costs to patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e16
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics

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