Science points to the impact of weight on our health: chronic health conditions worsened by weight include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, difficult pregnancies, and sleep apnea. Weight loss can improve health and reduce the risk of further conditions down the road. If you have obesity, the stakes are higher and there are a myriad of approaches to weight loss. The challenges are exacerbated by stigma: the word “obesity” is associated with shame and yet more than 40% of Americans are considered to have obesity.
In 2013, the medical community recognized obesity as a disease, and this important shift has inspired innovative solutions and reduced social stigma. Before that classification, obesity was a cultural issue, not a medical issue. We observed a similar pattern in depression in the early 1980s—once the medical community classified depression as a disease, it spawned both pharmaceutical and consumer innovation. Today, depression is at a 65% treatment rate while only 1% of people who have obesity are getting medical treatment. We are in the early innings of a transformation in obesity medicine, and FORM is at the forefront of an approach that will transform lives with improved health.
FORM has developed a program that combines diet, physical activity, behavioral science, and medication, all delivered via telehealth. Based on the sustained results of FORM's early patients, we believe the company will become a leader in obesity care with results not only for patients but also constituents including physician specialists and insurance companies as we move from fee-for-service to a value-based healthcare system.
How does it work? Its success starts with a seasoned team of physicians and health-tech entrepreneurs. FORM was started by Evan Richardson, whose early impact at Grand Rounds gave him insight on the effective application of telehealth that leads to adherence and overall improved health. Evan brought in board-certified physicians trained in the emerging field of obesity medicine to create personalized programs regularly monitored through telemedicine. Before joining FORM as Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Florencia Halperin co-founded and co-directed Brigham and Women’s Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery.
FORM patients see up to 15% weight loss at three months and up to 25% of weight loss at six months. But the FORM team does not see their patients as numbers on a scale. Especially powerful about FORM is the way the team approaches three barriers to obesity:
Most physicians don’t treat obesity, but they treat chronic health conditions that can be reduced or improved with weight loss. Physicians recommend FORM to patients whose high BMI prevents them from moving forward with procedures such as certain orthopedic surgeries or IVF treatment.
People who have obesity may live far from obesity specialists, or local brick-and-mortar providers may see patients infrequently, so telehealth plays a big part in adherence and accountability. FORM’s team of board-certified physicians and dietitians are available through the convenience of their smartphone. Accessibility includes affordability, and FORM bills your insurance for FORM doctor visits. FORM is currently available in 21 states covering more than 50% of the U.S. population.
FORM aims to destigmatize obesity with education about what causes the disease and with effective treatment. People with obesity can be treated poorly—they’re often judged first and foremost by their weight and made to feel like their weight is their fault. Medication can target our underlying biology and hormonal hardwire systems. The effectiveness of a compassionate team that’s with you at each step of the way can’t be emphasized enough. That level of personalization is what Dr. Halperin thinks is an essential part of the obesity journey: there’s no one-size-fits-all in weight loss, and customized care is essential.
Weight management is not just an individual struggle but also a societal challenge. The financial implications on workers are significant—impacting productivity and loss of wages—and a $147 billion cost (in 2008) to the U.S. healthcare system. FORM understands the many roadblocks to improved health, which led to its science-based approach and a high-touch bespoke consumer experience with telehealth.
By using telemedicine to improve access to board-certified obesity specialists, FORM is poised to become a leader in obesity care. Congratulations to Evan, the FORM team, and our friends at SignalFire and NextView Ventures—we’re proud to join you in this journey to destigmatize obesity.