Trend: Hospitals spending to care for obese

Here's another story bringing home an issue which we've covered in the past here in FierceHealthcare. With growing numbers of Americans--15 million at last count--now carrying at least 100 extra pounds, hospitals are finding that they need to acquire special equipment to accommodate these patients. The accommodations begin in waiting rooms, and have expanded to the point where hospitals utilize everything from special chairs designed to fit a morbidly obese frame to special stretchers carrying up to 750 pounds and lifts helping nurses move patients up to 1,000 pounds. Hospitals are buying MRI machines big enough to hold 550 pounds, and replacing wall-mounted toilets good only up to 325 pounds. They're also getting bigger beds and walkers for such patients. Small wonder that medical supply maker Stryker estimates that the U.S. bariatric market is already $100 million a year, with 20 percent annual growth.

These accommodations are expensive, unfortunately. For example, bariatric furniture can cost 20 percent to 50 percent extra, boosting the cost of a hospital bed from $6,000 to $8,000, to more like $10,000 to $12,000. Stretchers that hold 700 pounds cost more than $3,000, where others cost more like $2,400. And overhead lifts can cost $12,000. Meanwhile, insurance companies don't pay extra when hospitals care for bariatric patients.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer piece

Related Articles:
Medicare will pay for bariatric surgery. Report
Bariatric surgery to increase bottom line? Report
Trend: Hospitals investing in patient lifting devices. Report
Volume of child obesity surgeries growing. Report
Study: Obesity has impact on EDs. Report

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