Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Adding Medical Weight Loss Services to a Primary Care Practice

A primary care physician might want to consider adding bariatric or medical weight loss services to his or her practice. Strategically, the decision to add medical weight loss services to a practice is a function of at least four key items. These are: the nature of the specific medical weight loss services to be offered, patient demand, the industry's competition, and the physician's medical weight loss capabilities.

First, the physician needs to determine the kind of weight loss services he or she would like to offer. The common services that medical weight loss physicians offer include counseling to improve diet, exercise and behavior.  Pharmacotherapy is also a common service. And the physician can elect to use other experts to provide some of the services. For example, the diet and exercise services could be provided by non-physician specialists in nutrition and physical training. At any rate, the physician must decide on services to offer and how they will be offered.

Once the physician has selected the services to offer, he or she should assess factors affecting the future potential demand for weight loss and weight maintenance services. The CDC recently indicated that "the prevalence of obesity among adults in the U.S. passed 30% for the first time ever [in 2015]." So overweight and obesity will likely be a problem well into the future. Indeed, some experts agree with this.

If the physician concludes that the overall demand for weight loss services will continue into the future, the physician will want to look at specific segments within his or her market area that are most likely to want the weight loss services. Looking at different segments will allow the physician to choose the most appropriate segments to target, based on patient demand and the physician's objectives.

A physician, considering the medical weight loss arena, must also look at the competition in the target market area. Specifically, the physician should look at the number of physicians, hospitals, and clinics that provide weight loss services within the area. The physician should also determine the number of health clubs and commercial weight loss centers that he or she would be competing with.

The physician's training in obesity medicine is a key element in the physician's ability to help patients meet healthy weight loss goals. While obesity medicine training is not currently a part of most medical schools' programs, there are organizations that offer obesity medicine training. One organization that coordinates a number of these organizations is the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM). This organization sponsors CME (continuing medical education) training for physicians wanting to gain competency in obesity medicine.

Four respected organizations that partner with ABOM to offer CME training are the Obesity Medicine Association, The Obesity Society, Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, and the Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education. A physician should contact these or other appropriate organizations to gain obesity medicine training.

Once the physician has given due consideration to the medical weight loss services to be offered, patient demand, the industry's competition, and the physician's medical weight loss capabilities, an appropriate decision can be made to add or not add medical weight loss services to the physician's practice.


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