Overweight patients are becoming more common and statistics show obesity is a national epidemic. As a result, hospitals have had to adapt their approach and the tools they use to treat overweight patients.
More than a third of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In response, hospitals have worked to accommodate obese and overweight patients and their families by increasing the size of doorways, offering larger furniture and increasing the size of rooms, according to an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“The patient population that we’re treating--whether it’s in bariatric surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics--all of these specialties are having to cope with special needs because of obesity,” Jeffrey Allen, M.D., medical director for bariatric services at Norton Healthcare in Kentucky, told the newspaper. “Even chairs in the waiting rooms are bigger, not just for patients but for their families.”
Designing medical equipment for obese patients is a rapidly-growing sector of the healthcare industry, according to the article, as hospitals across the nation work to serve such a large portion of the population. And the cost can mount: retrofitting or redesigning a hospital room for on obese patient can cost between $50,000 and $70,000, according to the article.
In addition to larger furniture and more room space, hospitals may need to invest in new surgical tools as well, according to the article. For instance, a surgeon may need a longer tool to reach the gallbladder in an obese patient than in a thinner patient, according to the article, requiring two sets of tools to perform needed procedures.
Obesity also carries with it medical risks, and morbidly obese patients are likely to make more frequent trips to the hospital, according to the article, making efforts to prepare for their unique needs even more important. And while physicians encourage patients to slim down, it’s not a trend they expect to reverse in the near future. “As far as obesity goes, the future is a little bit bleak,” Allen told the newspaper.