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Designing digital health technology to support patients before and after bariatric surgery: qualitative study exploring patient desires, suggestions and reflections to support lifestyle behavior change

Lookup NU author(s): 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: A patient’s capability, motivation, and opportunity to change their lifestyle are determinants of successful outcomes following bariatric surgery. Lifestyle changes before and after surgery, including improved dietary intake and physical activity levels, have been associated with greater postsurgical weight loss and improved long-term health. Integrating patient-centered digital technologies within the bariatric surgical pathway could form part of an innovative strategy to promote and sustain healthier behaviors, and provide holistic patient support, to improve surgical success. Previous research focused on implementing digital technologies and measuring effectiveness in surgical cohorts. However, there is limited work concerning the desires, suggestions, and reflections of patients undergoing bariatric surgery. This qualitative investigation explores patients’ perspectives on technology features that would support behavior changes during the pre- and postoperative periods, to potentially maintain long-term healthy lifestyles following surgery.Objective: This study aims to understand how digital technologies can be used to support patient care during the perioperative journey to improve weight loss outcomes and surgical success, focusing on what patients want from digital technologies, how they want to use them, and when they would be of most benefit during their surgical journey.Methods: Patients attending bariatric surgery clinics in one hospital in the North of England were invited to participate. Semistructured interviews were conducted with purposively sampled pre- and postoperative patients to discuss lifestyle changes and the use of digital technologies to complement their care. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Reflexive thematic analysis enabled the development of themes from the data. Ethical approval was obtained from the National Health Service Health Research Authority.Results: A total of 20 patients were interviewed (preoperative phase: 40% (8/20); postoperative phase: 60% (12/20). A total of 4 overarching themes were developed and related to the optimization of technology functionality. These centered on providing tailored content and support; facilitating self-monitoring and goal setting; delivering information in an accessible, trusted, and usable manner; and meeting patient information-seeking and engagement needs during the surgical pathway. Functionalities that delivered personalized feedback and postoperative follow-up were considered beneficial. Individualized goal setting functionality could support a generation of digitally engaged patients with bariatric conditions as working toward achievable targets was deemed an effective strategy for motivating behavior change. The creation of digital package of care checklists between patients and clinicians was a novel finding from this study.Conclusions: Perceptions of patients undergoing bariatric surgery validated the integration of digital technologies within the surgical pathway, offering enhanced connectedness and support. Recommendations are made relating to the design, content, and functionality of digital interventions to best address the needs of this cohort. These findings have the potential to influence the co-design and integration of person-centered, perioperative technologies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robinson A, Husband A, Slight R, Slight SP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: JMIR Human Factors

Year: 2022

Volume: 9

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 04/03/2022

Acceptance date: 06/11/2021

Date deposited: 04/03/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2292-9495

Publisher: JMIR Publications, Inc.


DOI: 10.2196/29782

PubMed id: 35254271


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Funder referenceFunder name
Newcastle University