Background

The prevalence of pediatric obesity continues to increase, significantly impacting population healthcare system finances. Pediatricians have explored alternative approaches to providing structured weight management due to the resources and cost of standard interventions. One alternative is mobile health, which may be feasible, effective and sustainable. This report compares the implementation cost of a technology-based weight management program to a typical multidisciplinary intervention.

Methods

Data on costs required to implement the six-month intervention were collected from a 3-arm randomized clinical trial: 1) combination app + phone coaching (App+Coach); 2) app alone (App) and 3) in-clinic multi-disciplinary (Clinic). App consists of a multi-stage, incremental food withdrawal approach. Coach consists of daily text messages and personalized weekly phone sessions and Clinic consists of monthly visits with a multidisciplinary team utilizing an evidenced-based weight management curriculum.

Results

Costs associated with the app included scales (body and food). Coaching costs included personnel time for text messages and phone calls. Clinic costs involved personnel time for the multi-disciplinary team, materials provided and the cost of the facility. Internal costs to deliver the services reflecting our local health facility cost structure were $866 for AppCoach, $103 for App and $1,939 for Clinic.

Conclusions

Technology-based interventions are less expensive to implement than multidisciplinary approaches when a human component is not required. The ongoing clinical trial cited in this analysis will also further evaluate the clinical outcomes of each arm, providing data on the cost-effectiveness of this mobile health intervention and the effect on quality-adjusted life-years and potential to improve costs over the lifetime of the patient.