Introduction: Effective weight-management interventions require frequent interactions with specialised multidisciplinary teams of medical, nutritional and behavioural experts to enact behavioural change. However, barriers that exist in rural areas, such as transportation and a lack of specialised services, can prevent patients from receiving quality care.
Methods: We recruited patients from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Weight & Wellness Center into a single-arm, non-randomised study of a remotely delivered 16-week evidence-based healthy lifestyle programme. Every 4 weeks, participants completed surveys that included their willingness to pay for services like those experienced in the intervention. A two-item Willingness-to-Pay survey was administered to participants asking about their willingness to trade their face-to-face visits for videoconference visits based on commute and copay.
Results: Overall, those with a travel duration of 31-45 min had a greater willingness to trade in-person visits for telehealth than any other group. Participants who had a travel duration less than 15 min, 16-30 min and 46-60 min experienced a positive trend in willingness to have telehealth visits until Week 8, where there was a general negative trend in willingness to trade in-person visits for virtual. Participants believed that telemedicine was useful and helpful.
Conclusions: In rural areas where patients travel 30-45 min a telemedicine-delivered, intensive weight-loss intervention may be a well-received and cost-effective way for both patients and the clinical care team to connect.
Keywords: Obesity; feasibility, economics, telehealth; rural; telemedicine; weight loss.