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Despite the pandemic, care continues for nutrition and weight management appointments and bariatric surgery.

These days, technology isn’t only connecting us to friends and family — it’s also helping us stay on track with long-term health and wellness goals. And nutrition, weight management and bariatric surgery support during the pandemic is no different.

Here’s how we’re helping individuals meet their weight loss goals — virtually and as we begin to resume in-person appointments and surgeries.

Bariatric and weight loss appointments during COVID-19

While appointments may look a little different today, our weight loss and bariatric surgery programs continue to help people reach their goals.

When a person enters Geisinger’s bariatric program, the first six months of their journey involves information and learning about lifestyle and diet changes — this is the “coursework” that lays the educational foundation of understanding weight loss surgery. Typically held in-person, these courses were moved to virtual sessions through video calls when COVID-19 struck locally in mid-March. 

“From the time a person first enters the program, it takes about six months before they are ready to have weight loss surgery,” explains Joanne Rogers, clinical nurse specialist at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. “And almost all of that has moved online.” 

But the pandemic hasn’t slowed down care for those in need of weight loss support or weight management — in fact, Geisinger’s weight loss team is accepting and seeing new patients. 

“These appointments are done through telemedicine video visits whenever possible,” says Ms. Rogers. “That will be the model we follow with new patients moving forward, until the pandemic subsides. And our patients have been enjoying this new process.”

Virtual appointments are nothing new for the weight loss team. Since 2016, Geisinger’s Destination Medicine program has been accepting and caring for patients around the country undergoing bariatric surgery. The Destination Medicine program operates with some appointments and education sessions held remotely. Patients in the program only travel to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville twice — once for their initial appointment and once for their procedure. All other appointments are done through phone calls.

“This helped our team transition into this ‘new normal’ quickly and pretty seamlessly for our patients,” says Ms. Rogers. 

Taking the first step: Consultation for weight loss surgery

If you’re interested in Geisinger’s weight loss program, the first step is to schedule a virtual first-time consultation with a weight-loss specialist. This appointment will cover an in-depth review of your individual goals, whether medication or lifestyle changes are an option for your weight loss, any questions about surgery and more.

From there, you’ll work with your doctor to decide which is the best path for you to follow within our weight loss program: 

  • Conservative weight loss: You’ll next meet with a dietitian to talk about diet, exercise and medication. If medication is needed, additional appointments with a medical provider will be scheduled.
  • Bariatric surgery: You’ll enroll in our program and begin taking a nutrition class specific to bariatric surgery.

Telepsychiatry appointments are also available for those in our bariatric surgery program through virtual visits. “People are struggling more with food and stress during quarantine, gyms are closed and food is available all the time. We want to make sure we can help them work through the challenges that come with that,” says Ms. Rogers. 

In fact, our surgeons are beginning to schedule and reschedule weight loss surgeries that were initially postponed due to COVID-19.

New safety measures for surgery and appointments

Whether you come to one of our hospitals or offices for surgery, or pre-surgery or medical appointments, keeping you safe is our top priority. You may notice some new protocols we’ve put in place during your next visit, including:

  • Requiring staff, patients and visitors to wear a mask at all times. Wearing a mask helps protect others around you — and yourself — from the coronavirus. All of our medical personnel are wearing masks and taking extra steps to protect our patients, communities and themselves.
  • Reorganizing our waiting rooms and exam rooms for safe, social distancing.
  • Limiting visitors in our hospitals and clinics.
  • Deep-cleaning our care sites between patients and frequently throughout the day 
  • Adding early morning and evening appointments in many clinics for people with conditions that make them more vulnerable to illness.
  • Testing anyone scheduled for surgery for COVID-19 48 hours before their procedure, and only proceeding if their test result is negative.
  • Screening every person when they come in — patients, visitors and employees — including taking temperatures with a no-touch thermometer. By screening all our employees for COVID-19, no matter where they work, we’re taking significant precautions to keep our staff and patients safe.

Additionally, many of our nutrition and weight management classes will be held virtually, with some in person (with limited class sizes).

“This allows the benefits of the in-person classes while we work to maintain physical distancing measures to protect everyone’s health,” explains Ms. Rogers.

Next steps:

Upcoming appointment? Learn more about what we’re doing to keep you safe
Learn more about weight loss services
Schedule a telemedicine appointments

A woman continuing the weight loss journey through COVID-19

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