Virtual coach weight-loss system piloted at Johns Hopkins

This spring, Johns Hopkins Health System employees became eligible to enroll in Innergy, a new kind of comprehensive weight-loss program developed by faculty and staff at the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research. As of press time, nearly 100 employees had enrolled.

The program uses a highly interactive website with tools and information that are supported by one-to-one telephonic coaching to help patients achieve and maintain their weight-loss goals.

The POWER clinical trials—which led to the commercially available Innergy—revealed that online and telephonic coaching were just as effective as in-person counseling at helping obese patients achieve and maintain significant weight loss (5 percent or more of overall body weight) for more than two years. Encouraged by such positive results, the research team, led by Lawrence Appel, director of the Welch Center, teamed up with disease management company Healthways to commercialize the program and market it to large international employers as a means of improving employee health and keeping health care costs low.

"It was really an exciting opportunity for Johns Hopkins to actually work with an industry partner to commercialize a clinical trial," says Steve Libowitz, senior director at Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions, the office managing the Healthways relationship for Johns Hopkins Medicine. "We all believe that Innergy will make a significant impact on one of the most important and problematic areas of health care today, which is obesity."

Libowitz notes that commercializing the results of faculty and staff research is not an uncommon occurrence, but this collaboration may be the first time that a Johns Hopkins clinical trial has been adapted as a commercial product.

"In an era of sequestration, in an era when rates for hospitals are being reconsidered and in many cases reduced, many academic institutions are looking to academic-industry partnerships for meaningful ways to engage with industry that reflect our values and support our mission—but also generate revenue that isn't grant or government funding," Libowitz says.

Innergy is being offered to health system employees for only $11.54 each pay period for the first year; if they remain in the program a second year, the fee is reduced to $7.63. To be eligible at this time, employees must have a body mass index of 30 or greater. The institutional plan is to expand the offering within the year to employees with less than 30 BMI, as well as to all university employees and JHHS employees at Sibley, Suburban, Howard County General, and All Children's hospitals.

Posted in Health

Tagged obesity, nutrition