July 22, 2019 Issue
LeanMD, Inc. is helping Patients Achieve Weight Loss using a Digital Health Solution that unlocks all Clinical Tools and a Simplified Real-Food Program
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
CEOCFO: Dr. Musco, LeanMD wants to end obesity one person at a time. How can you do that?
Dr. Musco: LeanMD is a digital health company that empowers physicians to help their patients tackle their biggest health problems, which is their weight. We do that by unlocking all the clinical tools that are available to physicians to make their patients as successful as possible.
CEOCFO: Why don’t physicians know this already?
Dr. Musco: I am a traditionally trained family practitioner or general practitioner. I went through four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, and three years of post-medical school for training. During that time, I received zero minutes of weight-management training. We graduate thousands of doctors every year that do not have weight management tools within their tool kits to help their patients. There is an educational gap that exists within how we prepare our physicians to help their patients tackle their healthcare problems.
LeanMD understands that weight is often one of the biggest driving forces for morbidity and patient mortality and this is related to obesity driving diabetes, blood pressure and cardiovascular health consequences. When we think about the health impact of weight, the weight is what drives and ends up in the end-stage condition of cardiovascular disease, which is the number-one killer in the United States, killing even more people than all cancers combined. By helping patients lose weight we can help them maintain their health and enhance their vitality and longevity.
CEOCFO: What have you developed, discovered or recognized that goes into your program and your approach?
Dr. Musco: Our program is a “real food” based program where we teach patients how to visualize serving sizes of particular food categories so they can reach their caloric goal and achieve weight-loss. We simplified the meal planning strategy that the patient executes in their home, on the road or at someone’s house so they can be very successful.
CEOCFO: Do people that may have struggled for many years with weight issues know what to eat, or is it really that they do not want to eat right?
Dr. Musco: Most people get their information from the check-out line at the supermarket. The weight-loss guidance most individuals get from the internet, magazines, and TV is unfortunately being provided by celebrities and paid influencers rather than clinicians who have studied the data and understand the best way to achieve proven weight loss success. I would say people are highly educated but often that education they are receiving is not validated by science or the medical community. Understanding how to get to your caloric goals in a simple and efficient fashion is how we empower the patient. We then partner the patient with our mentoring program, which consists of weekly visits with a trained weight-loss mentor who helps guide them through their journey and helps them maintain their accountability as they go through their weight-loss journey.
We did a really interesting interview with one of the most successful patients of the LeanMD program, a patient named Lisa from California who lost 75 pounds on the program in basically a 9-month period. One of the things she said was that the nurse practitioner at her doctor’s office kept telling her to try our program. This went on for years because Lisa continued to say, “I can do it on my own; I know how to lose weight; I’m fine with my weight gain; I know if I starve I can lose it.” However, after a few years she finally acknowledged that she could not do it on her own. She finally said yes to her nurse who was encouraging her to join the LeanMD program and started losing two to three pounds per week. With a little help from some of our supplements, accountability and group therapy, the weight was finally coming off.
CEOCFO: Do you feel that people are used to doing so much digitally and somewhat anonymously that people are welcoming the actual interaction one-to-one?
Dr. Musco: We believe one of the most important things that we are leveraging is the relationship that LeanMD builds with the patient, which is a peer-to-peer, one-to-one, personalized program. Through that relationship, you are able to really anchor in the accountability the patient has to their objectives and goals every week. I think this will outsmart an AI bot or digitized prompting any day. I think human relationships outperform, and when we think about how we married a digital tool on the patient’s mobile device with one-on-one human accountability, you get the best results. The one-on-one human accountability can be done face-to-face in the exam room at the clinic, or it can be done virtually, telephonically through virtual mentoring sessions through a telephone or a virtual chat visit.
CEOCFO: What else goes into your program?
Dr. Musco: The other thing included in the program are supplements that are tailored to help the patient hack their hunger and cravings and are focused on keeping them on target so they can be more successful with their caloric deficit and on track with the program. For the right patient, and when medically appropriate, we will deploy the optional use of FDA approved appetite suppressants. Additionally, because we are physicians and clinicians, we have the ability to use the entire tool kit of testing to optimize their metabolism so that the patients can achieve weight-loss. That could be blood-testing or further evaluation to make sure there is nothing else holding the patient back from their weight-loss success.
CEOCFO: You have several locations or doctors now. How do you reach out to potential physician participants and are doctors starting to seek out LeanMD?
Dr. Musco: We reach practices and health systems by word-of-mouth from other practices that have been successful with LeanMD, and through digital tools to enhance awareness among our clinician compatriots and health systems so they can find us online. We also have a consistent presence at various healthcare obesity-related conferences where we can meet people and share our story with them.
CEOCFO: How do you work with doctors in starting the program?
Dr. Musco: Once we have a health system or a practice that wants to engage in the LeanMD program, we have an online video training program that teaches the practice everything from how to administer and manage a weight-loss program to how to work, coach and effectively engage with the patient, and how to market and grow your service to your existing patients as well as patients that may have never heard about your practice.
The training program is complete from the admin to marketing. We do that via an automated learning management system where the practices can go online and get all their training material, as well as important one-on-one training with a LeanMD representative to bring that practice live.
CEOCFO: How do you help a practice, doctor or clinician understand how to work with a patient?
Dr. Musco: One of our foundational beliefs – and data supports – is that approximately 70% of patients are expecting their doctor to discuss their weight at the time of an office visit. On the other side of that equation, 60% of physicians are waiting for the patient to bring up their weight-loss goals. What is happening is there is a clinical stalemate and no one is discussing it. What we do know is that when a physician brings up and addresses a patient’s weight and the health consequences of the weight, that patient is more likely to engage in a weight-loss program and achieve meaningful change.
With that data serving as our backbone, we want to empower physicians and make them feel confident and comfortable that they have a tool that can effectively help patients and effectively guide them to a better health screening. The way you help physicians be successful is by providing them with the evidence-based solution that they have clinical confidence in.
Additionally, you empower the team that is around the physician so that they can be effective team members and collaborate with the physician to work with the patient so the physician does not have to do it all by his or her self. You provide all the documentation and support materials that the patient needs to be successful, so it is really three elements. It is giving the physician the confidence by providing the evidence-based solution, empowering the team around the physician and then providing the tools and resources that the staff and physicians need.
CEOCFO: How are patients on average losing weight 4.5 times faster?
Dr. Musco: Our average weight loss is 4.5 times faster, and we believe that all results are reproducible across locations and across states. This is because what a physician can do versus what a traditional retail weight-loss center can do is quite different. For instance; the physician has access to testing and clinical tools to make sure the patient’s metabolism is optimized. With medications, we can help the patients be more successful by helping them tackle their cravings so they can stay on the program and achieve their weight-loss goals.
CEOCFO: What, if anything, has changed in your approach as more and more practices and patients are involved? What have you learned?
Dr. Musco: When we initially started, we were a paper-based weight-loss company. However, we found that when all the educational content and nutritional tracking tools are in the patient’s pocket and can be used on a whim, the patient can more easily stay on target. Therefore, having an effective training program that practices have ongoing access to is important. And as practices develop their staff and employees, they need to have continuous education and a continuous process of best programs and bring those into their practice. We make those available to practices throughout their journey so they can be the best they can be at helping the patients.
CEOCFO: How do you work with the practices on an ongoing basis?
Dr. Musco: We will have physician-to-physician meetings where we share amongst the LeanMD community and network of practices what is working and what is not, and what we need to enhance. That is really leaning on the community and their experience to enhance the program. In addition, our LeanMD staff will have frequent mentor meetings to train the LeanMD mentors of the affiliated practices as well as share experiences so that everybody learns from each other and we are able to lift all boats by this community based on an ongoing education process.
CEOCFO: What are your plans for growth?
Dr. Musco: So far in 2019, we have doubled our affiliated practice locations and our revenue has grown accordingly. We are currently in the process of raising additional funds so we can accelerate that growth through the rest of 2019 and through 2021. By the end of 2021, we want to be broadly represented across all states and have hundreds of locations across the US.
CEOCFO: Very ambitious!
Dr. Musco: Yes, we are excited and we are doing it. We also brought on some key team members, one of which is Brooksy Smith, who is a veteran of the B2B2C marketplace. He has brought in broad experience with helping scale sales, deployment and worth.
CEOCFO: What might people miss when they look at LeanMD?
Dr. Musco: We are the only national real food-based, physician-led, weight-loss program in the country. It has been born out of a personal need for myself to enhance my health, as I was LeanMD’s very first patient. I was in my 40’s with twenty pounds to lose and not headed in the right direction. LeanMD was really the answer to my health and my issues that I needed to tackle personally, which is something we want to bring to other clinicians to help transform other people’s lives. As a doctor, and as I work with my patients on a continual basis, it is very rewarding to be able to offer a solution in such a substantial way.
“The weight-loss guidance most individuals get from the internet, magazines,
and TV is unfortunately being provided by celebrities and paid influencers
rather than clinicians who have studied the data and understand the best way
to achieve proven weight loss success.”
Dr. Mark Musco
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