Understanding the Opportunities of Treating ObesityThursday, February 12, 2015
John Hernried, MD, FACP provides some insights into what it’s like to dedicate a medical practice to treating weight loss exclusively, and how an obesity conference is an opportunity to learn the business as well as earn continuing medical education credits in the process.
By: John Parkinson, Clinical Content Coordinator, DiabetesCare.net
In recent years, there has been a confluence of factors that has made the business of treating obesity attractive to the medical community in the United States.
These factors include: the American Medical Association’s decision to recognize obesity as a disease in 2013; the statistics claiming millions of Americans are being classified as overweight or obese; and the rise of medical modalities to treat obesity including new medications, bariatric surgeries, and medical diets.
John Hernried, MD, FACP (pictured below) solely treats obesity at his practice, The Hernried Medical Weight Loss Center. Hernried and his staff take a comprehensive approach that addresses the whole person including the underlying causes of obesity with a team of providers that include dietitians, behavioral therapists, nurse practitioners, and exercise physiologists.
In addition to running a successful weight loss practice, Hernried is the course director of the Obesity Treatment and Prevention Conference that is going to be held this summer.
Medical conferences such as the Obesity Treatment and Prevention Conference can be an excellent way for medical providers to learn, network, and begin a plan to offer medical weight loss in their practices, according to Hernried.
DiabetesCare.net spoke to Hernried recently about his medical weight loss practice as well as discussing why providers should consider attending the obesity conference this year.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about your practice and what you do in terms of treating obesity?
Hernried: My practice is fully focused on treating obesity and the comorbidities associated with obesity, including disease states such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s been a practice that has been in existence for 30 years and I have been associated with the practice for the last 15 years.
We maintain a multi-disciplinary treatment model with a multiple provider care team that includes: dietitians, physicians, nurse practitioners, and exercise specialists. We all work together using several different treatment modalities, including intensive dietary therapy, behavioral management, surgery and pharmacological therapy--if it is indicated.
DiabetesCare.net: What made you decide to dedicate your practice to treating obesity?
Hernried: I started off in primary care as an internist working in an office and a hospital. I came into practice during the "thin era," and I was taught that people with weight issues were simply lying to us. They were eating too much, not exercising, or simply being lazy. And yet, I saw the struggles of these patients including some with unmanaged diabetes, heart attacks, and other obesity-related health issues. And I would hear their stories when they came into the clinic, and I knew there had to be much more to it.
That’s when I started treating obesity as the core medical issue, and this has helped my patients with their other medical issues. Now, instead of adding new medications as part of patients’ regimens, I usually have them reducing their medications. That is a lot more fun for me when I can tell people to stop taking a medicine.
We now know a lot more about obesity as a complex disease, and this provides me with a scientific interest in treating the disease. We have discovered some of the pathways to obesity and subsequently some newer treatments. For example, an existing diabetes medicine was recently approved for weight loss.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about the importance of treating obesity as it relates to healthcare reform?
Hernried: Yes, the obesity levels in the United States are at epidemic proportions, and they are not showing signs of improving. It is a huge cost not only to the healthcare system, but to employers. It has a dramatic effect on absenteeism in the workplace. One of the things we know is that for every dollar invested in obesity treatment it results in a four dollar return of investment in terms of reduced healthcare costs and improved productivity.
And of course there is also an immeasurable aspect to treating obesity, which is the improved quality of life for my patients.
DiabetesCare.net: Can you talk about the business of obesity? What are the advantages for medical providers to get into the obesity treatment field?
Hernried: We know patients are searching for quality medical solutions for weight loss, and that patients really trust their medical providers. We are in an era where practices are increasingly strained in terms of revenue, and treating obesity can offer a great opportunity for medical providers to reach out to their own patients to help them lose weight and augment their practice; it can be a wonderful marriage between providers and patients.
We also see there is increasing reimbursement for obesity care, which didn’t exist before.
Lastly, there are many good options for weight management treatment, which include medications, surgery options, and medical diets.
DiabetesCare.net: Speaking about the business of obesity, you are the course director of the Obesity Treatment and Prevention conference, which will be held in Baltimore later this year. For those providers who are not currently treating obesity, but may be interested in doing so, do you recommend they attend a conference like this one?
Hernried: I think this conference is ideal, because we give them an understanding of what is needed to begin a weight loss business. It also allows them to network with people who are practicing clinical weight management and can give them some insights into the business. The conference is less theoretical and more practical in terms of how to run an obesity practice.
DiabetesCare.net: How is this conference different from others?
Hernried: This conference offers something for medical providers at every level. For those providers who are curious about offering weight management, they can come away with practical solutions to getting going; it is germane for those providers who are newer to the obesity business and have a small weight loss business already and want to learn how to grow their businesses; and it’s also for experienced providers who have been treating obesity for years, because this conference offers networking opportunities and discussions of new weight loss techniques.
There is an academic component to the conference, so continuing education is another important aspect to it.
Ultimately, we are looking to attract the interested clinicians who want to develop weight loss modalities as part of their practice and give them the direction they need at whatever stage they are in for their business development.
Registration is open for those providers who are interested in the Obesity Treatment and Prevention conference. To register or find out more information about the conference, go here.