Publication Date



Journal of Medical Internet Research


BACKGROUND: Integrating online weight-loss programs into the primary care setting could yield substantial public health benefit. Little is known about primary care providers' perspectives on online weight-loss programs.

OBJECTIVE: To assess primary care providers' perspectives on online weight-loss programs.

METHODS: We conducted focus group discussions with providers in family medicine, internal medicine, and combined internal medicine/pediatrics in Texas and Pennsylvania, USA. Open-ended questions addressed their experience with and attitudes toward online weight-loss programs; useful characteristics of existing online weight-loss programs; barriers to referring patients to online weight-loss programs; and preferred characteristics of an ideal online weight-loss program. Transcripts were analyzed with the grounded theory approach to identify major themes.

RESULTS: A total of 44 primary care providers participated in 9 focus groups. The mean age was 45 (SD 9) years. Providers had limited experience with structured online weight-loss programs and were uncertain about their safety and efficacy. They thought motivated, younger patients would be more likely than others to respond to an online weight-loss program. According to primary care providers, an ideal online weight-loss program would provide-at no cost to the patient-a structured curriculum addressing motivation, psychological issues, and problem solving; tools for tracking diet, exercise, and weight loss; and peer support monitored by experts. Primary care providers were interested in receiving reports about patients from the online weight-loss programs, but were concerned about the time required to review and act on the reports.

CONCLUSIONS: Primary care providers have high expectations for how online weight-loss programs should deliver services to patients and fit into the clinical workflow. Efforts to integrate online weight-loss programs into the primary care setting should address efficacy and safety of online weight-loss programs in clinic-based populations; acceptable methods of sending reports to primary care providers about their patients' progress; and elimination or reduction of costs to patients.


Adult, Attitude of Health Personnel, Focus Groups, Humans, Internet, Middle Aged, Physicians, Primary Care, Weight Loss



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.