How to choose the best weight-loss program for your practice.
While two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese, the multibillion dollar weight-loss industry illustrates the high demand for effective solutions to this problem. Losing even modest amounts of weight reduces health risks significantly, and patients often look to their health professional to navigate the vast amount of information and options arrayed before them. At the same time, healthcare practitioners can benefit from creative revenue streams in this realm.
When a person loses weight, their new appearance often becomes a central point of conversation with friends. A common question is, “What did you do to lose weight?” If your patients can say, “My doctor recommended a program that finally worked for me,” you’ll have word-of-mouth advertising acting in your favor.
Because of the income potential, many companies are looking to cash in on the obesity epidemic. Theories, programs, and pills abound. With so many choices, how does a practice determine the right weight-loss method to invest in and promote? Here are a few things to consider as you explore your options.
Define your philosophy
The first question to ask yourself is: What is your philosophy about weight and health? Have a clear understanding of your personal outlook so that you don’t waste time on programs that are incongruent with your values.
Some questions to help you nail down your perspective on this topic include:
- Do you believe supplements are necessary to produce successful weight loss? If so, you might want to seek out companies that provide natural appetite suppressants or other supplements to boost metabolism.
- Do you believe that given the right circumstances, the human body is able to heal itself? Do you think people are capable of changing their behaviors and making healthy choices? If the answer is yes to both, investigate programs that support lifestyle modification and involve behavioral support and accountability.
You want to be able to recommend a program without reservation. Patients are overwhelmed with all the options, and too many decisions can lead to analysis paralysis—patients fail to lose weight because they never commit to a plan. They will look to you for guidance and stability. If they sense ambiguity in your recommendations, stagnation and overweight status with its comorbidities may persist.
Lay the groundwork
Once you are clear about your philosophy, start looking at programs that are in line with your point of view. As you evaluate each avenue, ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of evidence is available to support the effectiveness of this approach?
- Is the evidence anecdotal?
- Does it have third-party credibility?
- How important is third-party credibility to you?
- What kind of weight loss is expected?
Approximately 85 percent of people who go on a diet regain their weight within two years. Is it important to you to consider weight maintenance? Or do you want to simply help people achieve their immediate weight-loss goals?
A viable model
In addition, you have to adopt a program that’s feasible for your practice. A number of factors are relevant in making this determination, including
- the time and resources necessary for implementation;
- the cost and office space required for inventory;
- recurring expenses such as monthly fees, quarterly minimums, website maintenance, and training costs;
- available support;
- staff training requirements and time dedication;
- expected income, profit margins, ROI, and your practice’s financial goals.
Once you’ve settled these matters from your side of the table, assess whether the program is realistic for your patients by asking:
- How convenient is it for clients to use the program?
- Will it require extra visits to the office? If so, how likely is it that they will comply?
- Will your patient population be able to afford it?
Being overweight is a multifaceted problem that involves many barriers to effective resolution. The best programs will cut through common obstacles by being convenient to follow.
Expand your offerings
In the process of exploring different programs, you might come across more than one that lines up with your practice goals and philosophy. The next question becomes: Should I offer multiple options to my patients?
As there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there will always be people who cannot benefit from your services. The main advantage of offering more than one choice is increasing the chances that your programs will apply to a greater proportion of your patients and thus generate more income.
But you may face disadvantages in offering more than one program. First, the cost and resources involved in implementation multiply. You’ll be dealing with various enrollment and maintenance costs, and a larger investment of time in training for numerous programs. Because weight loss is not the primary focus of most practices, it’s important to be efficient with time resources spent on starting and maintaining a program. Also, a greater investment requires a larger return to recover expenses and turn a profit.
Marketing competing programs may also prove problematic. Promoting different claims of expected results can confuse patients. Keeping up with the recommendations of each process and ensuring your staff advises clients according to their chosen program may also be cause for errors, which can lead to delayed results and frustration for both staff members and patients.
Gaining clarity about the pros and cons of whatever path you choose makes it possible for you make the right decision on weight-loss programs. Weight management is big business—and you first need to find where you fit in before you can determine what’s best for your practice. As you guide your patients, let your research guide you.
Donni Alvarenga, MSN, ARNP, C-PNP, co-founded and ran the Fit Kid Club, a weight management program for children. Her previous experience as an oncology nurse fuels her passion for wellness. She now runs her own health coaching practice, Mission: Healthy Patients. She can be contacted through missionhealthypatients.com.