Insights from the POWER practice-based weight loss trial: a focus group study on the PCP's role in weight management

J Gen Intern Med. 2014 Jan;29(1):50-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-013-2562-6. Epub 2013 Sep 4.


Background: Despite U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations, few primary care providers (PCPs) counsel obese patients about weight loss. The POWER practice-based weight loss trial used health coaches to provide weight loss counseling, but PCPs referred their patients and reviewed their patients' progress reports. This trial provided a unique opportunity to understand PCPs' actual and desired roles in a multi-component weight loss intervention.

Objective: 1) To explore the PCP role, inclusive of and beyond the trial's intended role, in a practice-based weight loss trial; and 2) to elicit recommendations by PCPs for wider dissemination of the successful multi-component program.

Design: Qualitative focus group study of PCPs with ≥ 4 patients enrolled in trial.

Participants: Twenty-six out of 30 PCPs from six community practices participated between June and August 2010.

Main measures: We used a semi-structured moderator guide. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Two investigators independently coded transcripts for thematic content, identified meaningful segments within the responses and assigned codes using an editing style analysis. Atlas.ti software was used for organization/analysis.

Main results: We identified five major themes related to the PCP's role in patients' weight management: (1) refer patients into program, provide endorsement; (2) provide accountability for patients; (3) "cheerlead" for patients during visits; (4) have limited role in weight management; and (5) maintain the long-term trusting relationship through the ups and downs. PCPs provided several recommendations for wider dissemination of the program into primary care practices, highlighting the need for specific feedback from coaches as well as efficient, integrated processes.

Conclusions: Weight loss programs have the potential to partner with PCPs to build upon the patient-provider relationship to improve patient accountability and sustain behavior change. However, rather than directing the weight loss, PCPs preferred a peripheral role by utilizing health coaches.

Trial registration: NCT00783315.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Counseling / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Research / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Patient Selection
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Program Evaluation / methods
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation / organization & administration
  • Weight Loss*
  • Weight Reduction Programs / organization & administration*

Associated data