Pediatric Mobile Clinic Launches Verizon Obesity Intervention Program
The UHealth – University of Miami Health System Pediatric Mobile Clinic has partnered with Verizon Wireless to launch a new anti-obesity program for Miami-Dade teens. The Verizon Obesity Intervention Program (VOIP) is the first of its kind for the media company and UHealth, and will feature clinical and research components through the use of Fitbit bracelets, Verizon phones and tablets, telehealth and a multidisciplinary health team.
“Verizon awarded us $140,000, through our partnership with the Children’s Health Fund, that allowed us to launch this initiative,” said Lisa Gwynn, D.O., Director of the Pediatric Mobile Clinic. “Our multidisciplinary team follows teens between the ages of 13-18 who are overweight or obese and are patients of the mobile clinic.”
Each participant is given a Fitbit bracelet and a mobile phone. They are followed by a team that includes a pediatrician, endocrinologist, nutritionist and psychologist. Patients are monitored over six months with three in-person visits onboard the clinic, which includes face-to-face meetings with physicians and live remote interactions via the clinic’s telehealth. In addition, each participant is assigned a health coach, who is a Miller School of Medicine medical student, pediatric resident or M.P.H. student. The health coaches communicate with patients via tablets provided by Verizon, checking in monthly to monitor health goals and weight maintenance.
“I speak with the patient and his or her parents at the same time, as each participant’s phone has video capability,” said Health Coach Coordinator Armando Alvarez, a second-year M.D./M.P.H. student at the Miller School of Medicine. “When I first get new patients, everything in our conversation tends to be negative – how hard weight loss is, what they can’t do. Then, as we continue to work together and the families start seeing everything they’ve accomplished within the program, our conversations become more positive. It hits you that through VOIP you’re building a foundation for their future.”
Fifty percent of the program’s participants will be classified as experimental. They will be provided the technology and additional medical oversight of the health coach. The remaining 50 percent of the patients will be in the control group and will receive the mobile clinic’s typical standard of care, which includes nutritional guidance through the clinic’s onboard telehealth capabilities. By comparing the compiled data from the experimental group, which includes feedback from the health coach, personal visits, Fitbit bracelet and more, with the control group’s measures, the team will be able to gauge how effective technology is to health management.
“The key to this program is the integration of telehealth with mobile devices and tablets, tracking systems and the personalized health coaches who work with patients directly through this medium,” Gwynn said. “We’re going to see if technology can make a difference in obesity intervention.”
Alvarez is optimistic about the program’s outcomes. “I was surprised at how invested families want to be in their health,” he said. “They have limited resources. But by us giving them a cell phone and the needed resources, the families are taking full advantage of VOIP.”
The Pediatric Mobile Clinic operates Monday through Friday at different locations around the county and is free to families that have no medical insurance. The schedule can be found here. Patients who meet eligibility criteria for VOIP are free to join the program.