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Popular Weight Loss App Ineffective In Achieving Weight Loss

A Cost Effective Fitness Band

In a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers found that overweight and obese patients who used a popular smart phone app (MyFitnessPal) did not lose significant weight after a 6 month trial period. The randomized controlled trial is the first of its kind to demonstrate that well-liked mobile apps may be ineffective for most users.

Two hundred and twelve racially diverse (73% female) patients treated at two UCLA primary care clinics were enrolled in the study. All indicated that they were interested in losing weight and 79% who completed the study indicated that they were “somewhat” or “completely” satisfied with the app, while 92% reported that they’d recommend it to a friend.

Unfortunately, as pleased as the subjects were with the app, there was no statistically significant difference in weight loss between the intervention and control groups. On average, the MyFitnessPal users lost 0.66 lbs  in 6 months.

The authors note:

“Most participants rarely used the app after the first month of the study… Given these results it may not be worth a clinician’s time to prescribe MyFitnessPal to every overweight patient with a smart phone… Our analysis did not show any demographic covariates to be important predictors of app use.”

This study serves as a reminder that “popular” and “effective” do not always go hand-in-hand when it comes to weight loss interventions. While mHealth apps are expected to earn $26 billion by 2017, one is left to wonder if this money will be well spent or if we’ll all be “somewhat to completely satisfied” with the apps without anything medically significant to show for it?

The Transition From The Analog Physician To The Digital Physician

While most of us fail to see it, doctors are changing.  We’re changing as a result of the social and technological innovation.  In 2050 what we do and how we do it will be very different from what we did at the turn of the century.  We’re evolving from analog to digital. I think it’s important to consider the ‘digital physician’ as a concept worthy of attention.  The training and support of this emerging prototype has to meet its different needs and workflows. Perhaps the criteria by which we choose medical students should take into consideration the anticipated skill sets and demands of this next generation.  And we need hard information about the digital physician and her habits.

Here are some differences between the digital and analog physician:

The digital physician

  1. Information consumption is web-based
  2. Rarely uses a pen.  Care and correspondence is conducted through an EMR.
  3. Socially connected.  Comfortable with real time dialog at least on a peer-to-peer level.  Recognizes Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

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