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Digital Support for Patients Undergoing Bariatric Surgery: Narrative Review of the Roles and Challenges of Online Forums

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Anna Robinson-BarellaORCiD, Professor Andy HusbandORCiD, Bob Slight, Professor Sarah SlightORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: The internet has become an important medium within health care, giving patients the opportunity to search for information, guidance, and support to manage their health and well-being needs. Online forums and internet-based platforms appear to have changed the way many patients undergoing bariatric surgery view and engage with their health, before and after weight loss surgery. Given that significant health improvements result from sustained weight loss, ensuring patient adherence to recommended preoperative and postoperative guidance is critical for bariatric surgery success. In a patient cohort with high information needs preoperatively, and notoriously high attrition rates postoperatively, online forums may present an underutilized method of support.Objective: The aim of this study was to conduct a narrative review focusing on the developing roles that online forums can play for patients with bariatric conditions preoperatively and postoperatively.Methods: A literature search was conducted in October-November 2019 across 5 electronic databases: Scopus, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and MEDLINE. Qualitative or mixed methods studies were included if they evaluated patients undergoing bariatric surgery (or bariatric surgery health care professionals) engaging with, using, or analyzing online discussion forums or social media platforms. Using thematic analysis, themes were developed from coding patterns within the data to identify the roles and challenges of online forums for patients undergoing bariatric surgery.Results: A total of 8 studies were included in this review, with 5 themes emerging around (1) managing expectations of a new life; (2) decision making and signposting; (3) supporting information seeking; (4) facilitating connectedness: peer-to-peer social and emotional support; and (5) enabling accessibility and connectivity with health care professionals.Conclusions: Online forums could offer one solution to improving postoperative success by supporting and motivating patients. Future research should consider how best to design and moderate online forums for maximal effectiveness and the sharing of accurate information. The surgical multidisciplinary team may consider recommendations of online peer-support networks to complement care for patients throughout their surgical journey.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robinson A, Husband AK, Slight RD, Slight SP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: JMIR Perioperative Medicine

Year: 2020

Volume: 3

Issue: 2

Online publication date: 15/07/2020

Acceptance date: 15/06/2020

Date deposited: 12/02/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2561-9128

Publisher: JMIR Publications


DOI: 10.2196/17230


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