Finding the Perfect Fit: Group or One-to-One Weight Management

Weight management is a critical aspect of overall health, and as an NHS healthcare provider, we strive to provide effective support to our patients in this journey. Group weight management appointments are a traditionally popular approach to care, offering both unique advantages and challenges for patients.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of group weight management care for our patients, as well as potential barriers that may exclude people from these essential services. With insights from our clinical experience, we aim to provide valuable information to help you and your patients to navigate the world of group weight management care effectively.

Let’s delve into the implications of group weight management care for patients and how it can impact their weight management outcomes.

What are the advantages of running a group weight management programme?

Joining group weight management programmes can provide several advantages for both primary care, and individuals who are looking to lose weight and improve their health, including:

      • Social support
      • Accountability
      • Education
      • Shared experience
      • Cost effectiveness
      • Long-term support

Benefits of group care for patients

One of the key advantages is the opportunity for peer support, where individuals can connect with others who are on a similar weight management journey, providing a sense of community and motivation. This sense of community can provide emotional support, motivation, and encouragement, which can be highly beneficial for patients trying to make positive changes in their lifestyle and eating habits.

Group dynamics can also foster accountability, as patients feel a sense of responsibility towards their fellow group members, leading to increased adherence to weight management goals.

Group weight management programmes provide a supportive and motivating environment where individuals can connect with others who share similar goals. This social support can help to improve adherence to the programme, provide accountability, and increase motivation.

Secondly, group care can also lead to improved patient motivation. Within a group setting, patients can witness the progress and successes of their peers, which can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation to achieve their own weight management goals. This positive reinforcement from fellow group members can help patients stay focused and committed to their weight management plan, leading to better outcomes in the long run.

Lastly, group weight management care can provide patients with a sense of empowerment and autonomy. Patients actively participate in discussions, goal-setting, and problem-solving within the group, which can enhance their self-efficacy and self-management skills. This increased engagement and ownership of their weight management journey can lead to better patient empowerment, self-motivation, and ultimately, improved outcomes.

Benefits of group care for primary care

Group weight management care not only benefits patients, but also offers advantages for primary care providers. One key benefit is increased efficiency. In a group setting, healthcare professionals can reach a larger number of patients at once, maximising their time and resources. This can lead to more efficient use of clinic or practice time, allowing healthcare professionals to provide care to a greater number of patients in a single session. This increased efficiency can help address the growing demand for weight management care, particularly in primary care settings where time and resources may be limited.

Another advantage of group weight management care is cost-effectiveness. By providing care to multiple patients in a group setting, healthcare providers can reduce the cost per patient, as shared resources and economies of scale can lead to cost savings. This can be particularly important in healthcare systems with limited budgets, where cost-effective solutions are needed to provide quality care to a larger population. Group care can be a financially viable option for primary care providers, allowing them to provide effective weight management care to more patients within their available resources.

Furthermore, group weight management care can lead to improved patient engagement. Patients in a group setting have the opportunity to interact with peers, share experiences, and learn from each other. This dynamic can create a supportive environment that fosters patient engagement and empowerment, leading to better adherence to weight management plans and improved outcomes.

Digital groups for weight management

Digital weight management groups, also known as virtual or online weight management groups, are a type of group care that is conducted remotely through digital platforms or technology. These groups are typically facilitated by healthcare professionals, dietitians, or other qualified individuals, and they provide support, education, and resources for individuals seeking to manage their weight in a remote setting.

Digital weight management groups can take various forms, including online forums, chat rooms, social media groups, mobile apps, or virtual video conferencing sessions. Participants in these groups can interact with each other and with the facilitator(s) through digital means, such as posting messages, sharing experiences, discussing challenges, and providing support.

Digital weight management groups offer several benefits. First, they provide convenience and flexibility, as participants can engage in group sessions from the comfort of their own homes or any location with internet access. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with busy schedules, childcare needs or limited mobility.

Second, digital groups can offer anonymity and privacy, allowing participants to share their thoughts and experiences without feeling judged or self-conscious. Third, digital groups can provide access to a diverse group of individuals with similar goals and challenges, fostering a sense of community and peer support.

Barriers to groups

While group weight management care can offer numerous benefits, it may also present challenges for patients.

One potential disadvantage is the lack of individualised attention. In a group setting, it may be difficult for healthcare professionals to provide personalised care tailored to each patient’s unique needs and preferences. It is necessary to have skilled facilitators who can promote individual reflection of how the session’s learnings relate to the person as an individual.

Group programmes may also have varying dynamics, and some patients may feel uncomfortable sharing their thoughts or experiences in a group setting, which could impact the level of engagement and effectiveness of the programme for certain individuals. Some people choose to be more passive within a group but can still benefit from hearing the discussion of others without actively participating.

Many individuals have busy schedules and may not have the time to attend regular meetings or participate in a weight management programme. Cost can also be a barrier for some, especially those who live in remote or underserved areas where it may be difficult to find an in person weight management group that is easily accessible.

Access to technology can be a potential barrier for individuals when it comes to participating in digital weight management groups. Not everyone may have access to a computer or smartphone, or the knowledge or confidence in how to use this technology which could limit their ability to engage in digital group care.

Coordinating logistics, such as scheduling group sessions, managing attendance, and addressing logistical issues, can also require additional time and effort for healthcare professionals. Additionally, addressing individual patient needs in a group setting can be complex, as patients may have different health conditions, preferences, and readiness for behaviour change, which may need to be addressed in a group setting with limited time and resources.

How to tell what’s right for your patient?

Deciding whether one-to-one or group care is best for your patient depends on their individual needs and preferences. Here is a checklist of factors to support your patients to make an informed decision:

  1. Personalised attention: If your patient prefers individualised attention and support, one-to-one care may be a better fit for them. With individual care, they will have the opportunity to work closely with a healthcare professional who can provide personalised feedback and support.
  2. Social support: If your patient prefers to connect with others who are going through similar experiences, group care may be a better fit. With group care, they will have the opportunity to share experiences, challenges, and successes with others in a supportive environment.
  3. Accountability: If they think they need a high level of accountability to stay motivated, either one-to-one or group care can be effective. Both types of care can provide accountability through regular check-ins, goal setting, and progress tracking.
  4. Time constraints: If your patient has a busy schedule, group care may not be a better fit as it can be less flexible with fewer options for meeting times. 
  5. Medical needs: If they have specific medical needs or conditions, one-to-one care may be better suited to address their unique needs and provide tailored support.

Ultimately, the decision between one-to-one or group care depends on your patient’s individual needs, preferences, and goals.

Key takeaway

In conclusion, group weight management care offers several benefits for patients, including peer support, motivation, and accountability. These advantages can contribute to better patient engagement, increased self-efficacy, and ultimately improved weight management outcomes. It can also be beneficial for primary care providers. Groups can lead to increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness, making it a viable option for successful weight management care in primary care settings.

It’s important for healthcare professionals to be aware of the potential challenges and consider ways to address them to ensure that group weight management care is effectively implemented and beneficial for both patients and primary care providers. 

We must acknowledge that complementing delivery methods are needed for different people. A hybrid health model can support everyone to access the right care for their needs. It’s vital that patients have a choice of delivery method, to ensure no one in the community is excluded from essential healthcare services.