Approval for bariatric surgery is a complicated process. To aid patients, a virtual-patient-navigation-platform (VPNP) was designed to decrease time-to-surgery by providing individualized appointment reminders. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of this app.
After IRB approval, a retrospective review was performed on patients who underwent bariatric surgery from July 2020 to February 2021. Baseline sociodemographic and medical history was collected using the EMR. Patients were grouped into those that engaged (ENG) versus not engaged (NEG) with the VPNP. Comparisons of continuous and categorical variables were conducted using appropriate univariate analyses. A p-value<0.05 was statistically significant.
Sixty-four patients were included in the analysis (ENG=78% [n=50] and NEG=22% [n=14]). Compared to the ENG group, patients in the NEG group were significantly more likely to be insured through Medicaid (57.1% vs 28%, p=0.04), single (50% vs 36%, p=0.02), and experience mild depression (PHQ-9 score=5-9; 33.3% vs 17%, p=0.02). There were no significant differences in obesity-related comorbidities, BMI, race, education, or gender. Finally, comparison of time-to-surgery demonstrated patients in the NEG group took longer to complete pre-surgery requirements (208.6 +73.6 vs 158.8 +59.1 days, p=0.0103).
Theis study demonstrated that our VPNP may shorten the time-to-surgery by approximately 1.5 months. Given that the platform was less likely to be used by patients in a lower socioeconomic bracket (i.e., insured through Medicaid), but was designed to help all patients navigate the complex process towards bariatric surgery approval, further work needs to be done to bridge this disparity.