Obesity remains a leading health problem in the U.S., increasing in prevalence from 30.5% in 2000 to 42.4% in 2018. Estimated annual costs for obesity management in the United States amounted to 147 billion USD in 2008, which represents a significant health burden. Obesity raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, fatty liver disease, renal disease, and other health problems.
Lifestyle changes involving behavioral treatments such as nutrition monitoring, exercise programs, and counseling have resulted in clinically significant weight loss in obese patients. Long-term adherence to these changes, on the other hand, has frequently been costly, time consuming, and difficult.
Body mass index and obesity
Body mass index (BMI), calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared (kg/m2), is commonly used to classify obesity. The WHO defines overweight as a BMI of over 25 and obesity as a BMI of over 30. The US National Institutes of Health states that the greater the BMI, the higher the risks for cardiovascular events and diabetes. As such, a great deal of effort and attention has been spent on addressing this condition.
Benefits of weight loss in obesity
Professional guidelines for cardiovascular disease and diabetes management all strongly recommend weight loss for obesity. For example, in obese patients with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association has observed that clinical benefits can already be seen upon achieving a 3-5% weight loss. Average weight loss of 2.5-5.5 kg reduced the risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes by 30-60%, and a 2-5% weight loss resulted in lower fasting glucose levels, with reduction of HbA1c by 0.2-0.3%. In obese patients with hypertension, the American Heart Association also emphasized that for every 1 kg weight loss, a 1 mmHg drop in blood pressure can be expected.
Universal recommendations for obesity management include lifestyle interventions such as proper diet and regular exercise. Frequent, consistent and reliable tracking of patients’ weight and body fat percentage supports progress in weight loss and enables patients to fine-tune their efforts and strategies.
Role of Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) in obesity management
This is where remote patient monitoring (RPM) comes in. DrKumo’s RPM devices include a weighing scale with body impedance analysis (BIA), a blood pressure monitor and a glucometer. Regular use of the weighing scale with BIA allows patients and providers to track more comprehensive information beyond just weight and BMI; body fat percentage, muscle mass, visceral fat and body water percentage can be monitored as well. This leads to better interpretation of weight shifts, such as if muscle or fat was gained or lost.
In obese patients with hypertension, using the blood pressure monitor to check BP before and after exercise can give them the confidence to exercise safely. In obese patients with diabetes, on the other hand, having a glucometer within reach to check blood glucose before, during and after exercise can also help minimize complications such as hypo- or hyperglycemia. With RPM, not only can these valuable data be recorded by the patients, providers can also view these data trends or live, which can lead to more accurate and individually-tailored recommendations on the subsequent patient visits.
RPM can play an important role in obesity management in patients with comorbid conditions and can lead to better tracking and weight loss strategies. To encourage a sustainable healthy lifestyle, RPM may modify the behavioral aspects that lead to obesity and other chronic conditions, and help them track their vital signs consistently even at the comfort of their own homes. This technology lowers the expense of chronic disease management and increases patient adherence.