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iMedicalApps and JMIR Publications have partnered to help disseminate interesting & innovative digital health research being done worldwide. Each article in this series will feature summaries of interesting studies to help you keep up to date on the latest in digital health research.

The Effectiveness of Mobile Phone-Based Care for Weight Control in Metabolic Syndrome Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial

1. What was the motivation behind your study?

uHealth care is a medical service developed to collect real-time health-related information without limits pertaining to time or location, and to perform continuous monitoring and treatment to examine health conditions in advance and prevent diseases, rather than solely providing treatment after the onset of disease. Because of the sudden increase in medical costs due to population aging and the increase of patients with chronic diseases in modern society, the need for the development of such a service is increasing, as is the need to build a cost-effective medical system and improve the quality of health and medical treatment services.

Overweight and obesity, due to a Westernized diet and lack of exercise, are serious global problems that negatively affect not only personal health, but national economies as well. To solve these problems, preventative-based approaches should be taken rather than medical treatments after the occurrence of disease. The improvement of individual life habits, through continuous care, is thus a paramount, long-term treatment goal. This study describes the effects of ubiquitous healthcare (uHealth care) or SmartCare services in the treatment of weight loss and obesity.

2. Describe your study

Metabolic syndrome patients were enrolled and randomized into either the intervention or control group. The intervention group was provided with remote monitoring and health care services in addition to the existing treatment. The control group was provided with only the existing treatment. Pedometers were given to all of the patients. Additionally, mobile phones and body composition monitors were provided to the intervention group while body weight scales were provided to the control group. The patients visited the hospitals at 12 and 24 weeks following the baseline examination to receive efficacy and safety evaluations.

3. What were the results of the study?

Mean weight reduction from baseline to week 24 was measured as a primary efficacy evaluation parameter and was found to be 2.21 kg (SD 3.60) and 0.77 kg (SD 2.77) in the intervention and control group, respectively. The intervention group had a larger decrement compared to the control group (P< .001). Among the secondary efficacy evaluation parameters, body mass index (P<.001), body fat rate (P=.001), decrement of waist measurement (P<.001), and diet habit (P=.012) improvement ratings from baseline to week 24 were found to be superior in the intervention group compared with the control group.

4. What were your studies findings?

The efficacy of SmartCare services was confirmed as the intervention group that received both SmartCare services and the existing treatment had superior results compared with the control group that only received the existing treatment. Importantly, no specific problems with respect to safety concerns were observed. SmartCare service is thus an effective way to control the weight of obese patients with metabolic syndrome.

5. What was the most surprising finding from your study?

We obtained results consistent with the primary efficacy evaluation in BMI, body fat rate, and waist measurements, which are directly related to obesity and body weight. In the satisfaction survey for the SmartCare service, convenience of device usage, satisfaction with the SmartCare Center service, and overall satisfaction with remote monitoring, all received responses which were ‘satisfactory’ or ‘very satisfactory’ from >50% of the users.

6. How could clinical practice or digital health be affected by your study’s results?

The positive effects of the development of uHealth on the medical field can influence not only health care providers but also various fields, including health care centers and network operators, can provide medical service anytime and anywhere without patients having to visit hospitals during operating hours, and can provide individually customized service for health improvement and disease prevention for identical conditions in contrast to the usual patient-doctor relationship.

This Q&A Summary was submitted by Oh et al.