53: Building Your Dream Team: How to Find the Right Obesity Medicine Physician

Feb 19, 2024

Years ago, the standard approach to obesity in primary care was to “eat less and move more.” Now, we’ve come to learn that without intensive behavioral support, that approach is largely ineffective. What many people don’t know is that obesity medicine is actually a medical specialty on its own that focuses on the evaluation, treatment, and prevention of obesity.

If you're struggling with the physician you're currently working with, feeling they offer little guidance and understanding about anti-obesity medications while lacking accountability, finding an obesity medicine physician might be the next step. 

But when you're looking for a physician, one of the first things you need to decide is what kind of care you’re looking for. In this blog, I’ll explore three different options to consider: in-person exclusive weight management clinics, telehealth practices, and direct primary care clinics.

In-person Weight Management Clinics

In-person weight management clinics offer a traditional approach where you physically meet with a healthcare provider. These clinics can provide a valuable opportunity for face-to-face interaction and personalized care, although they may be limited by geographic location and accessibility. 

Despite the benefits of in-person visits, virtual telehealth clinics (like mine!) are also gaining popularity. They offer convenience and flexibility, allowing patients to use various health extenders at home, such as body composition scales and measurements.

During my time working in both in-person and virtual settings, I’ve found that virtual visits often improved patient engagement and reduced the no-show rate. Patients appreciate the flexibility and convenience of virtual appointments, leading to more consistent follow-ups and better outcomes.

If you do prefer in-person visits, consider asking for recommendations from local community groups or conducting a thorough online search. When choosing a weight management clinic, it's crucial to ensure that the physician is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM). This certification ensures that the physician has received specialized training in obesity medicine and is equipped to provide evidence-based care. While there are various specialists certified by ABOM, including gynecologists and surgeons, it's essential to find a clinic that focuses exclusively on weight management to receive comprehensive care.

Telehealth Solutions

Telehealth offers a convenient alternative to traditional in-person visits, allowing patients to receive medical care remotely. There are various telehealth options available, ranging from solo practitioner clinics to larger telehealth platforms. Solo practitioner clinics, like mine, provide personalized care with a focus on individualized support and education. Patients have the opportunity to interact directly with the physician and access additional resources, such as group nutrition calls and workshops.

However, not all telehealth clinics offer the same level of personalized care. Some larger telehealth platforms may prioritize efficiency over patient-provider relationships, resulting in limited interaction with the physician. As a patient, it’s important to carefully evaluate your options and consider your individual needs when choosing a telehealth clinic. It's essential to look for clinics that offer regular communication with the physician and a comprehensive approach to weight management.

When considering telehealth options, it’s a good idea to inquire about the clinic's billing structure and long-term support plan. Some clinics may charge a monthly fee for ongoing services, while others may offer a pay-per-visit model. Make sure that the clinic's billing structure aligns with your preferences and budget–it’s also worth asking about the clinic's succession plan and whether they offer long-term support beyond the initial treatment phase.

Direct Primary Care Clinics

Direct primary care (DPC) clinics offer a membership-based model where patients pay a monthly fee to access primary care services. These clinics prioritize patient-provider relationships and offer more personalized care compared to traditional fee-for-service practices. Many DPC clinics are also certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) and offer weight management programs as part of their services.

Patients considering DPC clinics should research available options in their area (DPC Frontier can help you find a DPC practice near you) and schedule a meet-and-greet with potential providers to assess compatibility. It's essential to find a clinic that offers inclusive care and addresses both primary care and weight management needs. DPC clinics can provide a holistic approach to healthcare, focusing on overall well-being and long-term health goals.

Red Flags to Consider

As you navigate the realm of weight management clinics, it's essential to be aware of potential red flags that may indicate suboptimal care or unrealistic expectations. Here are some red flags to watch out for when considering a weight management clinic:

  • Long-Term Commitments: Beware of clinics that pressure you into signing up for long-term commitments, such as six months to a year, without providing flexibility or options for early termination. While it's understandable for clinics to require some commitment for continuity of care, excessively long commitments without the opportunity for assessment and feedback can be concerning. Look for clinics that offer month-to-month or visit-to-visit arrangements, allowing you to assess the program's suitability over time.
  • One-Size-Fits-All Protocols: Be cautious of clinics that promote rigid, one-size-fits-all protocols without considering individual differences and preferences. Every person's body and lifestyle are unique, and a cookie-cutter approach to weight management may not be effective or sustainable for everyone. If a clinic insists on following a standardized protocol for all patients without considering your specific needs and circumstances, it may be a sign to proceed with caution.
  • Overpromising Results: Be wary of clinics that make unrealistic promises or guarantees regarding weight loss outcomes. While weight management programs can be effective when tailored to individual needs and supported by evidence-based practices, no program can guarantee specific results for every individual. If a clinic claims to guarantee rapid weight loss or other dramatic outcomes without considering individual variability and potential challenges, it may be overselling its services.

By being mindful of these red flags and conducting thorough research before committing to a weight management clinic, you can make informed decisions that prioritize your health and well-being. Remember to trust your instincts and seek out clinics that prioritize personalized care, evidence-based practices, and realistic expectations, whether you choose an in-person exclusive weight management clinic, telehealth practice, or direct primary care clinic. 

Finding the right obesity medicine physician is essential for effective weight management and by exploring different options and considering your individual needs, you can find the support and guidance necessary to achieve your weight management goals.