How to Set Up a Successful Medical Weight Loss Program

Woman doctor smiling and looking to the camera while a medical team is workingObesity levels in American are not improving, as 70% of adults are overweight or obese, with no change in sight. Medical conditions such as diabetes, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, and others are directly related to this obesity. Demand for effective and safe weight loss programs will be with us for a long time, due to our culture and eating habits. So, why aren’t more physicians providing weight loss programs for their overweight patients?

There are a few reasons. First, many doctors are reluctant to tell their patients that they need to lose weight. Second, most doctors don’t have training in nutrition. Third, most doctors don’t have the business and marketing skills to operate a profitable program. And fourth, many feel that they just don’t have the time or staff to do it. In addition, there is no AMA or clinical-sponsored course, seminar or workshop to teach them HOW to add weight loss to their practice. There are a handful of consultants that will do it, or one can purchase a franchise for $200,000 or more.

Adding weight loss to a physician’s or nurse’s practice is a natural. Patients already have a long-term relationship with their doctor, and consumers say that nurses are the most trusted profession. Doctors have a built-in client base and don’t have to spend as much on marketing and “branding” to reach these patients. Doctors are better able to address obesity-related conditions than commercial diet chains (high blood pressure, diabetes, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, post-menopausal hormone imbalance, for example), and can prescribe appetite suppressing diet drugs if needed.

What to Know About Medical Weight Loss Programs

  • Competitive advantage: Medical weight loss programs have a significant competitive advantage over commercial weight loss companies such as Jenny Craig, NutriSystem or Weight Watchers. The ACA’s Preventative Care Benefit mandates that insurers pay for obesity screening and counseling for people with a BMI of 30+, counseled by “qualified weight loss professionals” (MDs, RDs, PAs, nurses). This benefit is worth $1,625/year and represents an unprecedented opportunity for medically supervised weight loss programs to provide a higher level of service than commercial diet centers—it’s essentially free of charge for patients with insurance.
  • Franchise opportunities: Small to mid-sized medical weight loss franchisors are growing. However, high start-up costs/investment, ongoing royalties, and parent company control over how a practice is run, deters many doctors from purchasing a franchise. There are 10 identifiable medical weight loss franchises, licensees or regional corporate chains in the business.
  • Revenue potential: Consultants have proven that MDs can add $250,000 (part-time) to $1+ million per year (full-time) in revenues to their practice by adding a weight loss program, either by setting up a stand-alone weight loss center or by utilizing existing space and staff on a part-time basis.
  • Market size: Medical weight loss programs in the U.S. generated an estimated $8.2 billion in 2021 (more than twice the value of commercial chains). The “average” medical weight loss clinic or program grosses $543,000 per year, with a 36% profit margin.
  • Market drivers: Marketdata forecasts that more MDs and nurses will add weight loss programs to their practice, to make up for lost income and declining insurance reimbursement. Internists, general practitioners, family doctors, OB-GYNs, and RNs are especially well suited to add weight loss to their offerings.

Where to Learn More

For more information, see the comprehensive 232-page guide How to Set Up a Profitable Medical Weight Loss Program by Marketdata, a respected market research firm. The guide provides all the information a physician, physician assistant, dietitian, or nurse practitioner needs to set up a successful weight loss practice, ALL here in one place, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a consultant.

About the Author:  John LaRosa is the President of Marketdata LLC and is the author of 100+ industry and market studies. His research appears in top media outlets including ABC, CNN, Fox, ForbesUSA TodayThe Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and a variety of trade journals. 

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Topics: Healthcare Industry Insights