Primary Care Patients' and Providers' Perspectives about an Online Weight Management Program: a Qualitative Study

J Gen Intern Med. 2019 Aug;34(8):1503-1521. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-05022-6. Epub 2019 May 31.


Background: Primary care providers (PCPs) often take the lead role in caring for patients with overweight and obesity; however, few PCPs counsel patients about weight loss. Online weight management programs that are integrated within primary care may help address this gap in care.

Objective: To identify perceptions of and experience with online weight management programs in general and with a proposed online program, to identify barriers to use, and to improve the design and content of our intervention, which included an online program plus population health management (PHM) support from primary care practices.

Design: A mixed qualitative methods study including three patient focus groups and seven semi-structured interviews with healthcare providers.

Participants: A total of 13 adult patients (age range, 20-70) with body mass index (BMI) 27-35 kg/m2 attended the focus groups. In-person semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven healthcare providers (three PCPs, two population health managers, one primary care nurse, and one registered dietitian).

Main measures: We developed and used semi-structured focus groups and interview guides. The focus group and interviews were recorded and transcribed. Using grounded theory, we analyzed the transcripts to identify and extract common concepts and themes.

Key results: Although patients and healthcare providers expressed positive opinions about online weight management programs, few patients had experience with them, and providers stated that such programs are not being widely implemented in primary care settings. Some participants highlighted the flexibility and low cost as strengths of online weight management tools compared with in-person programs. All participants had favorable opinions about our proposed intervention and were overwhelmingly positive about the combination of an online program and PHM support.

Conclusions: This study highlights the potential value of online weight management programs and PHM support in primary care.

Clinical trials registration: NCT02656693.

Keywords: obesity; online program; overweight; primary care; weight management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Weight Reduction Programs / methods
  • Weight Reduction Programs / standards*
  • Young Adult

Associated data