5 Ways Obesity Will Change Hospitals

Obesity will change hospitals as they face the fact that they must adapt and accommodate patients with obesity. The latest report in the annual series by Novation finds that only 25% of 125 hospitals surveyed have invested to accommodate patients with severe obesity. Here are five key changes that hospitals must make:

  1. Architectural Design. Doorways and rooms that are not built to accommodate beds for patients with obesity can create serious problems. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recently documented a case where a bariatric bed transporting a patient to the ICU “repeatedly got stuck in the doorframe and was only able to be dislodged with extreme force by multiple personnel.”
  2. Bathrooms. Toilets that can accommodate obesity are an immediate concern if a hospital is to safely care for larger inpatients.
  3. Seating and Bedding. Furniture designed to safely and comfortably accept a person with obesity is an obvious place to start. Inadequate furniture is both a hazard and an obvious sign that the hospital is not serious about the needs of patients in their community.
  4. Patient Handling. Lifting, moving, and transporting patients safely requires both equipment and procedures to ensure the safety of patients and healthcare professionals. Liability alone will prod hospitals to move on this consideration.
  5. Diagnostic Equipment. The need for appropriate diagnostic equipment covers a wide range from blood pressure cuffs and scales to MRI and CT scanners. A hospital that tells a patient they need a veterinary scale (it’s happened) is dangerously ignorant.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) is advocating for stronger hospital requirements to provide safe facilities and procedures for patients with obesity. U.S. Congressman John Conyers introduced the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act to help with this goal. Said ANA spokesman Adam Sachs:

Organizations need to make safe patient handling and a culture of safety a high priority within the organization. It’s an investment in higher-quality care and increased safety.

Every patient, regardless of size, should expect and receive respect and quality care from their hospital. Centers of excellence for bariatric surgery are generally ahead of the pack in meeting this need. And beyond the physical changes discussed here, cultural change will be necessary to eradicate rampant bias against these patients.

Click here to read more in Modern Healthcare and here to read more from ConscienHealth.

Hospital Blues, photograph © Martin Pulaski / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.