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Rapid conversion to virtual obesity care in COVID-19: Impact on patient care, interdisciplinary collaboration, and training.

Lohnberg JA, Salcido L, Frayne S, Mahtani N, Bates C, Hauser ME, Breland JY. Rapid conversion to virtual obesity care in COVID-19: Impact on patient care, interdisciplinary collaboration, and training. Obesity science & practice. 2022 Feb 1; 8(1):131-136.

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OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges to maintaining interdisciplinary collaboration while transitioning care to telehealth environments. This paper describes how an intensive weight management clinic rapidly transitioned from in-person only to a telehealth environment. METHOD: As a program evaluation project, changes to clinic procedures were tracked on a weekly basis. Patients were invited to complete phone surveys after clinic appointments from 1 May 2020 to 31 July 2020. The survey included 12 items rated on a 5-point scale ("strongly disagree" to "strongly agree"). RESULTS: Adaptations included converting team meetings and clinical training to phone/video platforms and transferring a complex patient tracking system to an interactive virtual format. Fifty-eight patients completed phone surveys (81% response rate). All "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that they were satisfied with telehealth care; 51% "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that telephone visits were as good as in-person visits; and 53% preferred phone appointments even after pandemic restrictions are eased. CONCLUSIONS: It is feasible to rapidly transition to a telehealth clinic when supported by infrastructure and resources of a national, integrated healthcare system. Patient preferences include access to both telehealth and in-person services. A blended telehealth/in-person model that maintains interdisciplinary collaboration and training is necessary even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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