Obesity is a worldwide epidemic, and its prevalence is higher among Veterans in the United States. Based on our prior research, primary care teams at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital do not feel well-equipped to deliver effective weight management counseling and often lack sufficient time. Further, effective and intensive lifestyle-based weight management programs (e.g. VA MOVE! program) are underutilized despite implementation of systematic screening and referral at all VA sites. The 5As behavior change model (Assess, Advise, Agree, Assist, Arrange) is endorsed by the United States Preventive Service Task Force for use in counseling patients about weight management in primary care and reimbursed by Medicare. In this paper, we describe the iterative development of a technology-assisted intervention designed to provide primary care-based 5As counseling within Patient-Centered Medical Homes without overburdening providers/healthcare teams.
Thematic analyses of prior formative work (focus groups with patients [n = 54] and key informant interviews with staff [n = 25]) helped to create a technology-assisted, health coaching intervention called Goals for Eating and Moving (GEM). To further develop the intervention, we then conducted two rounds of testing with previous formative study participants (n = 5 for Round 1, n = 5 for Round 2). Each session included usability testing of prototypes of the online GEM tool, pilot testing of 5As counseling by a Health Coach, and a post-session open-ended interview.
Three main themes emerged from usability data analyses: participants’ emotional responses, tool language, and health literacy. Findings from both rounds of usability testing, pilot testing, as well as the open-ended interview data, were used to finalize protocols for the full intervention in the clinic setting to be conducted with Version 3 of the GEM tool.
The use of qualitative research methods and user-centered design approaches enabled timely detection of salient issues to make iterative improvements to the intervention. Future studies will determine whether this intervention can increase enrollment in intensive weight management programs and promote clinically meaningful weight loss in both Veterans and in other patient populations and health systems.