A “Digital Therapy” Using Wellcoaches Model
FareWell Pilot Results
In a February 16, 2017 release, Dr. Mark Berman (Head of Health at FareWell Company) shared the results of pilot testing a new digital platform providing a means for weight loss, using Wellcoaches trained coaches. FareWell is a physician-led program to help people improve health by making lasting changes to diet and lifestyle; the program and mobile app provides clients with coach calls, weekly meal plans, how-to videos, and 24/7 messaging support. The company’s goal is to pioneer novel digital therapeutics targeting lifestyle-related cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers (https://farewell.io/). The nutritional features and exercise recommendations of the program are derived from evidenced-based findings and incorporate key principles established by FareWell’s advisory board that includes Dr. David Eisenberg, Dr. David Katz, Margaret Moore, and Mark Erickson.
In their pilot study, Dr. Berman and associates recruited 94 female volunteers with a willingness to prepare meals at home and eat mostly whole, plant-based foods. The study was a non-randomized, pre-post design offering 16 weeks free access to the Farewell program. It included meal planning tools, smart shopping lists, recipes, a daily self-monitoring feature, variable weekly goals, and a short weekly curriculum delivered by email. Each participant received a free digital scale with weigh-ins accessible to both participant and health coach. Coaching calls, scheduled every two weeks at the participant’s convenience, provided participants behavioral support and a degree of personalization.
The average participant age was 51 years and BMI was 32.8 (class 1 obesity). “Starters” were defined as those with two or more coaching calls and at least one digital engagement (e.g. logging a daily target) in four weeks, and, “completers” defined as those who had at least 2 digital engagements in week 16 of the program. Given this definition, nearly 75% of participants completed the program.
Findings from the FareWell study emphasized those with the greatest engagement had the best results. Those in the top third of participation lost 7.1% of body weight while the average for all completers was 5.1% loss over the 16-week program. More than 70% of those in the top third achieved greater than 5% loss of body weight; a goal associated with improve health outcomes. Excellent participation in physical activity (average = 4 times/week) was also achieved by program completers.
The results from the FareWell pilot study are reminiscent of the large-scale (> 25,000 participants) coaching study published last summer. In that article, Long et al. reported coached participants with higher engagement showed better overall health outcomes than participants with lesser engagement in their coaching program (also Wellcoaches-based). A common theme in the FareWell results, and the Long et al. study, is those who stick with their health coach have a better chance for successful behavior change and positive health outcomes, particularly weight loss.
The FareWell study provides an excellent and specific clinical demonstration of successfully incorporating the Wellcoaches model into a behavioral intervention plan for obese women. FareWell presents a digital platform and new alternative for those seeking healthy behavior changes with weight loss as a first goal. It is exciting to see Wellcoaches-trained coaches be a critical feature in the success achieved by those participating in the FareWell program.
Berman, M. (2017). Learning and outcomes from our first digital therapeutic pilot. https://farewell-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/Pilot_Results_Extended_Referenced_Version.pdf
Long, D., Reed, R. & Duncan, I. (2016). Outcomes Across the Value Chain for a Comprehensive Employee Health and Wellness Intervention: A Cohort Study by Degrees of Health Engagement Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: July 2016 – Volume 58 – Issue 7 – p 696–706 doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000765