Study: Overweight have trouble sticking with doctors

People struggling to control their weight also tend to have a hard time finding a doctor they want to stick with, thus compromising continuity of care for a population at increased risk for health problems, according to new research published in the journal Obesity.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found overweight patients doctor-shopped--defined as switching doctors more than five times within two years--23 percent more than patients of normal weight. The review of 20,700 medical records also found obese patients were 52 percent more likely to switch doctors than their normal-weight counterparts, NPR Shots reported.

Part of the problem is that patients may not feel doctors support them in their efforts to lose weight, noted lead researcher Kimberly A. Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. Although this particular study didn't determine why patients were leaving their doctors, previous research suggests it's not uncommon for heavy patients to experience bias at medical offices.

While acknowledging that finding the right fit is important for patients, Gudzine said her research points to a larger problem.

"There's something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people," she said in a statement. "The real problem here is that the health of overweight and obese patients who doctor shop is being compromised. Because they do not remain with their doctors for very long, they are ending up in the emergency room, likely for things that could have been taken care of in a primary care office."

To learn more:
- see the statement
- read the blog post from NPR
- see the abstract from Obesity