Obesity Management Certificate Program a Win for PAs and Patients

14-Month Program Provides Coaching, Teaches Strategies Around Obesity

July 10, 2020

By Eileen Denne, CAE, APR

Want to better understand obesity and the barriers to patients seeking care, and improve your approach to patients? The 14-month Obesity Management in Primary Care Certificate Program is the program for you.

Kayla Bakane, PA-C, MPAS, North Hills Family Medicine in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, was highly motivated to join the first cohort of the Obesity Certificate Program (OCP) in 2018. “Obesity treatment/management is not a topic covered in-depth in [PA] school and I always found myself grasping at a variety of resources. The OCP ended up being the exact thing I had been searching for since I began practicing.”

Join the 2020-2022 OCP Cohort!

The OCP supports PAs and NPs who are interested in expanding care to patients affected by obesity. It was developed in 2018 by AAPA in collaboration with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA). The program is currently looking for its second cohort which starts in July 2020. This year, AAPA will be partnering with The Obesity Society (TOS) and Integrated Learning Partners (ILP).

Five enthusiastic 2018 participants provided feedback about OCP benefits for themselves and their patients.

Kayla Bakane, PA-C, MPAS; Kristen Rheinlander, MMs, PA-C; Lacee Keller, PA-C; Kristin Kamprath, MPAS, PA-C; Alana Young, PA-C
From left to right: Kayla Bakane, PA-C, MPAS; Kristen Rheinlander, MMs, PA-C; Lacee Keller, PA-C; Kristin Kamprath, MPAS, PA-C; Alana Young, PA-C

Why did you sign up for the Obesity Certificate Program in 2018?
Alana Young, PA-C, Skylands Medical Group, Rockaway, New Jersey: Obesity contributes to the top three leading causes of preventable death in the United States. You cannot truly be an effective and compassionate healthcare provider without understanding the causes of obesity and the barriers to patients seeking care.

Kristen Rheinlander, MMs, PA-C, Seattle Performance Medicine/Cooper Center for Metabolism

Seattle, Washington: As I started to see my own patients and heard their stories of chronic struggles with weight management, it became clear how the recommendation of “diet and exercise” was counterproductive for weight loss and often times led to weight gain. I was determined to learn more about the disease process, but also be an advocate and voice for my patients and others impacted by obesity. When I saw AAPA was starting the OCP, I knew that I had to be involved!

Lacee Keller, PA-C, Favia Primary Care, Algonquin, Illinois: In school, I did not receive much education on weight loss management for patients or how to help these patients prevent the chronic diseases that they were acquiring. I had tried researching UpToDate but felt like I needed further education. I was so excited to see the Obesity Certificate Program because I had been searching for a reliable source of evidence-based knowledge to give to my patients.

Were there specific patient outcomes you hoped to accomplish during the OCP program?
Kristin Kamprath, MPAS, PA-C, Live By Losing, Fort Worth, Texas: I was looking for alternative methods to motivate patients and keep them focused on their health goals that were weight-related. The program helped to guide me on how to use certain apps and tools to help patients track their overall progress with oral intake and exercise. We also focused on measuring waist circumference and looking for 5-10% improvement in this over the course of six months of office visits.

What did you learn during the practice coaching?
Lacee Keller: One of the things that I found to be invaluable was the access to obesity practicing providers. They were always willing to respond to my questions. Amy Ingersoll was my coach and I was so happy that she helped me find answers to my questions whether in the webinars or a personal email.

Alana Young: The comments and feedback from my coaches were very helpful in terms of developing realistic goals, providing reassuring feedback and helping me to combat any barriers to success.

Kristen Rheinlander: I refused to accept that the cost of a medication can limit patient outcomes. I hoped that OCP would help teach me ways to overcome such barriers. Early in the program, our coaches encouraged us to not only accurately measure patients’ BMI, but also document the appropriate ICD10 code in our EMR.

How did you use the discussion group?
Kayla Bakane: [The discussion group] allowed us to discuss ways that we are doing things and gain insight and different perspectives about how to succeed. We also discussed a lot of fact vs myth and misconceptions that providers have when it comes to managing obesity.

Alana Young: We had a number of assignments that were completed through the discussion group. However, I found the side threads listing obesity management tools and resources even more helpful. I am working on using several of the suggested websites/resources to create visually appealing and informational handouts for my patients.

Kristen Rheinlander: Throughout the program I would use the discussion board as the central “go to” place to submit assignments, solicit feedback from coaches, and share success stories with peers. Within the Huddle library, we would share articles that sparked conversation about this growing field of medicine, and exchange ideas for new patient education materials.

How has your approach to obesity management helped patients since you started the program?
Kristen Rheinlander: Before I started the OCP, I​ recognized the importance of taking a holistic approach to obesity management. The OCP reinforced that belief and showed me how to implement Obesity Medical Association’s 4 pillars of clinical obesity treatment: nutrition, physical activity, behavior, and medication. The program provided evidence of why integrating all four of these four pillars is critical for creating individualized management plans and helping patients achieve long-term success.

Lacee Keller: Since doing the OCP, my approach to a large portion of patients has shifted significantly. Since the program, I find myself approaching patients to help them with weight loss even if they are not starting the conversation with me. I find I am often the first healthcare provider that has told them this [having obesity] is not all their fault. I find them tearing up when I explain this to them and explain the chronic and progressive nature that is obesity.

Alana Young: Obesity is a sensitive topic for most patients. The empathetic communication style emphasized by the coaches allows my patients to feel at ease when discussing such a delicate and complex topic. I take time to educate my patients about the etiology of obesity and the role of genetics in their struggles. Taking the time to provide education and empathy has greatly improved compliance with follow up.

Kristin Kamprath: My participation in the OCP has given me a wider scope of ideas on how I can approach weight loss with different types of patients. I am now able to mold each of my patients’ weight loss plans with their lifestyle, dietary restrictions, and busy schedules so that they can be successful just by changing small things each day.

What did you find most helpful in the OCP program?
Kayla Bakane: During the PDSA cycles I was able to focus on specific goals and find ways to make them achievable in my practice while getting feedback from the coaches. This was very valuable because you cannot teach one way to do things and have it meet the needs of every single clinic. This personalized approach was invaluable.

What have you appreciated most?
Kristen Rheinlander: Nearly every day I have a patient recall a time when they were told “all that you need to do to lose weight is eat less and move more.” This message would come from family, friends, and healthcare providers – and often started from a young age. What these patients deserved to hear, was that it was not their fault and obesity is a complex, multi-metabolic, hormonal disease state.

Kristin Kamprath: I greatly enjoyed and appreciated meeting like-minded PAs from the beginning of the program and using a group text to ask questions and bounce ideas off one another over the past year.

Has the program helped lead to different patient outcomes than before you participated in the program?
Alana Young:  I am learning to navigate the challenging waters of poor insurance coverage for necessary obesity medications. My experience in the OCP may have taught me how to pick the most beneficial medication for Patient X, however, if Patient X has a high deductible or is on Medicaid, for example, and samples are limited, where do I go from there? I try my best to provide samples and local resources.

Lacee Keller: 1) I approach obesity from a chronic standpoint. I feel I know how to problem-solve with obesity the same way I have with hypertension when it is not responding to the first step I take. 2) I find I am helping more patients to lose weight because of my confidence in approaching them but also more patients are reaching out to me. 3) I am finding patients can remove more chronic medications, have higher self-confidence, and less joint pain.

Would you recommend the program to others?
Kristin Kamprath: Absolutely! This was a great experience that is led by expert PAs, nurse practitioners, and doctors who have a wealth of knowledge regarding methods to treat the growing epidemic of obesity.

Kayla Bakane: If you are in healthcare and managing diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, joint pains, and other conditions that can be impacted by obesity, I would definitely recommend this program. Obesity is an epidemic that is not going anywhere anytime soon. I believe that if we can all be on board in managing it and always looking at ways to help ourselves as providers improve in order to provide better patient care, then why would you not partake in the OCP?

Introduction to Obesity Management
AAPA is currently seeking PAs and NPs to join the second cohort, which includes participation in nine clinical webinars, nine coaching webinars, engagement in an online learning community, individualized coaching, and two practice-related quality improvement projects—one clinically focused and the second business focused.

The program will also have one in-person workshop at AAPA’s Annual Conference 2021 but there will be a virtual option so physical attendance is not required. Upon completion of the program, participants earn more 34 continuing medical education (CME) credits and receive a TOS-issued Certificate of Obesity Management, recognizing the provider has reached a higher-level of expertise in treating patients affected by obesity.

Before enrolling, AAPA prospective participants are strongly encouraged to complete the Obesity Leadership Edge curriculum found in Learning Central, and AANP prospective participants should complete the Introduction to Obesity Management (Modules 1-7). PAs can access these activities here, and NPs should click here.

For more information, contact [email protected].

Eileen Denne is director, corporate communications at AAPA. Contact her at [email protected].

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