A non-randomised feasibility study of a mHealth follow-up program in bariatric surgery

Charlene Wright*, Jaimon T. Kelly, Joshua Byrnes, Katrina L. Campbell, Rebecca Healy, Jane Musial, Kyra Hamilton

*Corresponding author for this work

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Behavioural support via mobile health (mHealth) is emerging. This study aimed to assess the feasibility, acceptability, cost, and potential effect on weight of a mHealth follow-up program in bariatric surgery.

This was a non-randomised feasibility study describing intervention development and proof in the concept of a mHealth follow-up program in bariatric surgery. The study compares a prospective cohort with a historical control group and was conducted in a tertiary bariatric surgery service in Australia. The intervention group included individuals who had bariatric surgery (2019–2021) and owned a smart device, and the historical control group received usual postoperative care (2018). The intervention involved usual care plus codesigned biweekly text messages, monthly email newsletters, and online resources/videos over a 6-month period. The primary outcome measures included feasibility (via recruitment and retention rate), acceptability (via mixed methods), marginal costs, and weight 12 months postoperatively. Quantitative analysis was performed, including descriptive statistics and inferential and regression analysis. Multivariate linear regression and mixed-effects models were undertaken to test the potential intervention effect. Qualitative analysis was performed using inductive content analysis.

The study included 176 participants (n = 129 historical control, n = 47 intervention group; mean age 56 years). Of the 50 eligible patients, 48 consented to participate (96% recruitment rate). One participant opted out of the mHealth program entirely without disclosing their reason (98% retention rate). The survey response rate was low (n = 16/47, 34%). Participants agreed/strongly agreed that text messages supported new behaviours (n = 13/15, 87%); however, few agreed/strongly agreed that the messages motivated goal setting and self-monitoring (n = 8/15, 53%), dietary change (n = 6/15, 40%), or physical activity (n = 5/15, 33%). Interviews generated four main themes (n = 12): ‘motivators and expectations’, ‘preferences and relevance’, ‘reinforced information”, and ‘wanting social support’. The intervention reinforced information, email newsletters were lengthy/challenging to read, and text messages were favoured, yet tailoring was recommended. The intervention cost AUD 11.04 per person. The mean 12-month weight was 86 ± 16 kg and 90 ± 16 kg (intervention and historical control) with no statistically significant difference. Intervention recipients enrolled at 3 months postoperatively demonstrated a statistically significant difference in 12-month weight (p = 0.014).

Although this study observed high rates of recruitment and retention, findings should be considered with caution as mHealth may have been embraced more by the intervention cohort as a result of the 2019 coronavirus pandemic. Of the various digital strategies developed and tested, the text message approach was the most acceptable; however, future intervention iterations could be strengthened through tailoring information when possible. The use of email newsletters and online resources/videos requires further testing of effectiveness to determine their value for continued use in bariatric surgery services.
Original languageEnglish
Article number176
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Early online date17 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


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