Home Health Obesity, with the app the patient is never alone

Obesity, with the app the patient is never alone

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Obesity, with the app the patient is never alone

The one with obesity is a battle that is not easy to win alone. Especially after bariatric surgery, when lifestyle and nutrition are revolutionized in a very short time, and a lot of willpower is needed to continue the journey without falling back into bad habits. Fortunately, today apps are able to transform the mobile phone into a precious ally for patients, capable of motivating, providing useful information, and helping to constantly monitor the objectives achieved.

“Apps for bariatric patients are already in use in some Italian hospitals, and they certainly represent a useful resource,” says Iris Zani, President of the Amici Obesi Patient Association. “They are very articulated, and offer multiple functions. Information on what and how to eat is much sought after by patients, especially in the first days after surgery. In the following months, when the risk is to let yourself go a little on a psychological level, apps are instead useful for maintaining the right motivation: they push us to do better and provide feedback on the results we are achieving”.

The first Italian app of this type was born in recent years, through the collaboration between the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, Johnson & Johnson MedTech and Alessandro Giovanelli, director of the National Institute for the Treatment of Obesity (INCO) of the San Donato Hospital from Milan. It is designed to accompany the patient who chooses to undergo bariatric surgery throughout his treatment path. From the first visit, when the patient installs it on his smartphone. Before the operation he helps you prepare, remembering to start changing your diet immediately to get used to what you will follow after being operated on. The suitability for the operation, the various appointments and the date of hospitalization are communicated through the app. Once the surgery is over, the app starts asking a series of questions every day that help the patient self-assess their situation. If problems emerge from the answers, an alert is generated, prompting the patient to contact the right specialist, and only when there is really a need. “For the patient it is a reassurance: if the alerts do not arrive, his path is the correct one”, explains Giovanelli. “For us doctors it helps to skim the calls, we know that if the patient calls us there was something concrete that led him to seek our help”.

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For now, the use of the app is foreseen for one year after the intervention. A key period in which the greatest problems are encountered, and at the end of which, although the journey is not yet over, a patient who is doing well usually has the road cleared to achieve long-term weight loss and weight control. “The results we have are absolutely positive because patients feel they always have a motivator with them, who reminds them what the next steps are”, underlines Marco Raffaelli, full professor of Surgery at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and Director of the UOC Endocrine and Metabolic Surgery of the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome. “They don’t replace physical activity, but they help motivate the patient to adhere to the pre- and post-operative pathways, in the first months of the operation. In the long term, patient selection and preparation are essential”.

The scientific evaluation of the app’s effect is underway in recent months, thanks to a study carried out in collaboration with the University of Bergamo. But the preliminary data – the two experts assure – are absolutely positive: the group of patients who used the app shows greater adherence to the therapeutic plan, and better results in terms of weight loss. These patients go to the hospital less in the months following surgery, and this means a better quality of life for them, less work for the doctors, and significant savings for the National Health Service as well.

“Our goal is precisely to re-imagine healthcare, building a more digital and connected environment that fosters active patient engagement and helps improve outcomes of care, improving the experience for healthcare professionals, and at the same time optimizing costs for the healthcare system”, comments Luca De Agostini, General Manager of Ethicon Italia, part of Johnson & Johnson Medtech. “That is why we have developed a series of digital apps that aim to educate and support the patient undergoing bariatric surgery throughout the journey: Care4Today Education and Care4Today Monitor. The intention is to make the patient the protagonist of the treatment process with a favorable impact on healthcare resources. The first results are very promising and suggest that over 90% of patients would recommend these apps to other patients”.

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