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Adoption and Appropriateness of mHealth for Weight Management in the Real World: A Qualitative Investigation of Patient Perspectives.

Breland JY, Agha K, Mohankumar R. Adoption and Appropriateness of mHealth for Weight Management in the Real World: A Qualitative Investigation of Patient Perspectives. JMIR formative research. 2021 Dec 8; 5(12):e29916.

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BACKGROUND: Mobile health (mHealth) interventions for weight management can result in weight loss outcomes comparable to in-person treatments. However, there is little information on implementing these treatments in real-world settings. OBJECTIVE: This work aimed to answer two implementation research questions related to mHealth for weight management: (1) what are barriers and facilitators to mHealth adoption (initial use) and engagement (continued use)? and (2) what are patient beliefs about the appropriateness (ie, perceived fit, relevance, or compatibility) of mHealth for weight management? METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with patients with obesity at a single facility in an integrated health care system (the Veterans Health Administration). All participants had been referred to a new mHealth program, which included access to a live coach. We performed a rapid qualitative analysis of interviews to identify themes related to the adoption of, engagement with, and appropriateness of mHealth for weight management. RESULTS: We interviewed 24 veterans, seven of whom used the mHealth program. Almost all participants were 45 years of age and two-thirds were White. Rapid analysis identified three themes: (1) coaching both facilitates and prevents mHealth adoption and engagement by promoting accountability but leading to guilt among those not meeting goals; (2) preferences regarding the mode of treatment delivery, usability, and treatment content were barriers to mHealth appropriateness and adoption, including preferences for in-person care and a dislike of self-monitoring; and (3) a single invitation was not sufficient to facilitate adoption of a new mHealth program. Themes were unrelated to participants' age, race, or ethnicity. CONCLUSIONS: In a study assessing real-world use of mHealth in a group of middle-aged and older adults, we found that-despite free access to mHealth with a live coach-most did not complete the registration process. Our findings suggest that implementing mHealth for weight management requires more than one information session. Findings also suggest that focusing on the coaching relationship and how users' lives and goals change over time may be an important way to facilitate engagement and improved health. Most participants thought mHealth was appropriate for weight management, with some nevertheless preferring in-person care. Therefore, the best way to guarantee equitable care will be to ensure multiple routes to achieving the same behavioral health goals. Veterans Health Administration patients have the option of using mHealth for weight management, but can also attend group weight management programs or single-session nutrition classes or access fitness facilities. Health care policy does not allow such access for most people in the United States; however, expanded access to behavioral weight management is an important long-term goal to ensure health for all.

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