One small change can boost patients’ success by 40%

Maddi Ginsberg

Until now, mHealth solutions have been divided into two categories: automated behavior monitoring, which allows patients to better track their adherence to a care protocol, and tools that better connect patients to their physician or a care coordinator. However, a better solution lies at the intersection of these two possibilities. Previously, the mHealth landscape had been remarkably vacant of tools that monitor, analyze, and report behavior to the physician, while also connecting the patient to a human support network.  We’ve found that the key to user engagement is personalized, human guidance provided in the context of a comprehensive digital intervention.
 
We reached this conclusion based on two studies we completed with the Life Insurance Philanthropy Foundation (LIF) in South Korea. First, Noom compared interaction with the Noom Health app alone (which provides digital monitoring and behavioral guidance) versus a conventional, in-person plan with a human coach and regular fitness and nutrition classes.  Already, Noom’s mobile technology proved significantly more effective at retaining patients long-term, improving weight loss, BMI decrease, and fat loss, compared to the conventional, in-person approach. Patients in the digital program lost nine pounds, while those in the in-person group lost only 3, on average.
 
But we weren’t satisfied yet. Due to the success of the study, Noom launched a follow-up study with LIF in 2015 to test coaching in addition to the digital weight loss program. Each individual was able to connect to a human coach through the app. The coach offered knowledge, encouragement, and support to help each member succeed and stay on track.
 
With the addition of coaching, Noom users lost even more weight than they did in the 2014 pilot. On average, Noom users with a coach lost 13 pounds in 15 weeks,  compared to nine pounds in a digital-only program or three in an in-person intervention. Noom also retained 100% of its users, while the in-person group lost 50% of its users.
 
Certainly, digital interventions are a promising alternative to in-person programs. But what we find most interesting is that with the addition of a coach for motivation and support, Noom users lost 40% more weight than in a fully automated digital tracking and guidance program. This is the opportunity that many mHealth innovators are missing out on.
 
Why such a drastic improvement? A coach can help users stay motivated through plateaus and give guidance when most needed. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the app alone can pick up on trends and nudge the user, but only a human can drive real accountability. Plus, the comfort and expertise of the coach makes the user feel more confident in their treatment plan to deliver results quickly and consistently.