Background

Although effective and frequently recommended to high BMI patients, only a low percentage of eligible patients ultimately undergo bariatric surgery. To aid decision making, physicians offer informational group sessions and seminars, and increasingly, patients seek information online. Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of the consumer “shopping” online for weight loss surgery can inform professionals on what patients use to make decisions, how best to present it, and ultimately improve the decision making process and increase the rate of successful surgeries.

Methods

Google Adwords was used to recruit internet users in high obesity states searching for “bariatric surgery” and related terms to an online survey.

Results

853 surveys were completed from Oct 2018 to Aug 2019. Time considering surgery ranged from a few days to 5+ years, however, data showed a strong desire for more information. 69% of respondents wanted to know more about the experiences of peers, different procedures (60%) and risks (54%). Of least interest were support groups (32%) and seminars (22%). Finding the right doctor (79%) and care team (41%) ranked highly. In psychosocial characteristics, receiving appropriate social support ranked the highest (93%). However, 67% indicated needing significant time to “warm up” to new people and 65% would rather have one close friend than many. Majority had not shared surgery plans with anyone (48%) or only a few very special people (44%).

Conclusions

People “shopping” online for bariatric surgery have a significant desire for more information, both about personal experiences and the mechanics of the procedure. The decision process can be lengthy and intimate with the desire for privacy. This does not necessarily fit with the common practice of medical referrals followed by in-person seminars. Based on these results, it may be possible to increase successful surgeries by tailoring information to this particular population and focusing on privacy and fit with a surgeon.