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Case study: Breaking barriers to help people understand the science of weight loss

A lot of people want to improve their health, wellness, and appearance by losing weight. However, a lot of weight loss programs are based on fad diets which promise dramatic outcomes, but typically deliver only temporary results.

The reason why such stylish diets don’t work is because people are disconnected from the science of food and nutrition. They try something, it works for a while before the restrictions imposed on their favorite food starts draining them. They often get tired of limiting their food choices and start gaining weight again.

However, if people are empowered with the right education about the science of weight loss, the role of sugar, fat and insulin and how our body reacts to the food we eat, there is a greater chance that people will stick to a diet that is healthy and works for them.

A mobile app that helps patients on their weight loss journey

Our partner, Dr. Christian Middelthon, is a health and wellness coach specializing in weight loss. He has been guiding his patients by listening and discussing their concerns, one patient at a time. However, he wanted to improve the quality of his program, make a larger impact and reach out to more people through a mobile medium.

Dr. Middelthon says that losing weight is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. In order to be successful, the patients need to focus on their goal and consistently be mindful of their food choices for the entirety of the program. He wanted to motivate, educate and coach patients on their weight loss journey.

Therefore, he came up with the idea of building this mobile app. The purpose of the app is to heighten people’s awareness of their weight loss journey and give them a tool to improve their accountability. The app does so by providing daily new positive proverbs to maintain a high level of motivation. It also tracks their weight and body measurements. The patients are fully aware of how much weight and how many inches they have lost over a period of time.

What were we up against?

Dr. Middelthon has a global network of patients which includes CEOs, CXOs and page 3 celebrities. Since many of these patients frequently travel around the world, it’s challenging for them to adhere to the program– meal by meal. This also applies to several of his local patients who might occasionally go away on business or leisure trips while they’re on the program.

As a solution, Dr. Middelthon came up with the idea of a mobile app to serve as an additional tool for his patients. The purpose of the app was to motivate patients and facilitate their progress, even when they are miles away. It makes the patients feel like they’re not alone– the app is traveling with them.

The VikingHealth app is designed and developed keeping all the above-mentioned thoughts in mind. It’s an invite-only mobile app which helps Dr. Middelthon to stay connected with his patients. The application aims at holding patients accountable for their weight loss journey by empowering them with the right information.

How does the application work?

The mobile app is built on Android and iOS. The reason it’s not freely available is because Dr. Middelthon didn’t want to develop something which behaved like a cookie cutter. He wanted to build an app which puts emphasis on personalized care. Moreover, Dr. Middelthon also wanted the app to ensure the safety of his patient’s personal privacy.

The user-side of the app is more about guiding and motivating the users to keep going. The 12-weeks weight loss program is divided into 4 phases. Each phase is designed with certain instructions which the patients need to follow.

For instance, in phase 1, the patients need to eat an abundance of food in order to accelerate their metabolism. And they have to record the total amount of calories from what they eat and drink throughout the day.

water intake

The UI is designed in a way which makes it easier for them to keep track of their daily performance during their weight loss journey. We have also added a gamification element in the app which rewards good performance in the form of badges. In future releases, the plan is to convert these virtual elements into monetary rewards. We’re also planning to add AR features in the application.

Additionally, the app allows Dr. Middelthon to look at his patient’s progress and record consultation videos. Subsequently the patients have the opportunity to revisit their sessions. He can also add new users in the application and deactivate/reactivate their access to the app.

How is the app designed?

There are two user personas of this app– one is Dr. Middelthon himself. The other persona is the group of people who come to him for weight loss consultations. Many of these people are aged in the 40+ group and are non-tech savvy. The user side, especially, are middle aged people who rarely use mobile apps. They prefer human connections over digital. And they quickly get discouraged if they run into technical challenges or when answers to their questions are delayed.

So, it was important for us to keep this user insight in mind while designing the app. We wanted every piece of information to appear upfront and keep their friction points minimal.

Therefore, we’ve designed the app in such a way that it reduces the number of steps that the user has to take in order to perform simple tasks like adding body measurements or recording their water intake.

We have also added motivational quotes and daily and weekly reminders to engage the users.

Visual elements like small animations in the onboarding, graphs and bar charts in the losing phase of weight loss cycle, keep the users engaged throughout their journey.

Which technology did we use to build the app?

The mobile app is built in ReactNative. It was an obvious choice since we wanted to develop a cross-platform application. We’ve used OpenTok for the online video consultation feature and Lottie for implementing animations.

We have tried our hands at serverless architecture for this mobile app. The database is built on DynamoDB and to connect APIs through serverless, we have used GraphQL, AppSync, and Resolvers.

How has the app helped drive better outcomes?

Earlier, our partner, Dr. Middelthon, faced difficulties with patients with whom he was interacting remotely. His challenges included continuously reminding the patients to chart their weight, record their measurements, and note their water intake.

With this application, he has been relatively successful in optimizing the adherence by in-app reminders and motivational messages. Thereby, helping patients to stay on track with their weight loss program.

In conclusion, Dr. Middelthon has been able to improve the quality of his weight loss program. The doctor-patient experience has also improved because the mobile application helps the patients stay connected. The mobile app has instilled a higher level of accountability in Dr. Middelthon’s patients and the compliance to the 12-week program has improved. Overall, the app complements the program and makes it more accessible and engaging.

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