Successful weight loss may be just a phone call away.

Johns Hopkins Medicine and Healthways are collaborating on launching a weight loss program designed to replicate the success of a recent clinical trial demonstrating that telephone counseling helped patients lose significant weight and maintain it successfully for 2 years.

The study, which appeared in the November 24, 2011, edition of The New England Journal of Medicine (365, 1959–68), showed that in two behavioral interventions—one delivered with in-person support and the other delivered remotely, without face-to-face contact between participants and weight loss coaches—obese patients achieved and sustained clinically significant weight loss over a period of 24 months.

According to a Johns Hopkins press release, Hopkins and Healthways, a global health and well-being improvement company, have developed Innergy™, a commercially available version of the call center–directed weight loss program pioneered and studied by Lawrence J. Appel, MD, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the POWER (Practice-Based Opportunities for Weight Reduction) trial, lead author Appel and his colleagues found that roughly 40% of obese patients enrolled in the telephone-based weight loss program lost at least 5% of their body weight, an amount associated with real health benefits such as lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and better diabetes control.

Participants received weekly phone calls from health coaches for 3 months and then monthly thereafter. Subjects were also encouraged to sign in regularly to an interactive website with tools for tracking weight and providing regular feedback by email. Another arm of the trial used in-person instead of telephone coaching, with similar results.

“In most weight-loss studies, there is a lot of emphasis on frequent, in-person counseling sessions, but from a logistical perspective, in-person interventions are challenging for both patients and counselors,” Appel stated in the press release. “Patients start off strong but then stop attending in-person sessions. The telephonic coaching and web-based program, on the other hand, is convenient to individuals and can be done anywhere.”