Healthcare News & Insights

New trend: Hospitals are changing to accommodate obese patient population

Obese man's waistNowadays, most hospitals place a high priority on improving patient satisfaction. Happier patients translate to happier customers who tell two friends and so on. But there’s one patient population who may not be happy with their hospital stays unless you’ve altered your facility recently – obese patients. 

If you haven’t made any physical accommodations to your facility yet, you’re going to need to soon. It’s a trend right now with hospitals. More and more are altering their patient rooms, buying new equipment, even building new wings to better accommodate this important patient population.

A 2014 survey of hospitals nationwide by Novation LLC, found a quarter of respondents had made renovations to accommodate morbidly obese patients in the past year.

It’s clear why, when you face the facts that more than one-third (35.7%) of adults are considered to be obese and 6.3% have extreme obesity, according to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Often morbidly obese patients will put off going to the doctor and getting certain health tests because of their weight, so when your facility gets them, they’re much sicker. And they need special equipment like larger and sturdier beds and wheelchairs, special heavy duty lifts, longer needles for drawing blood, larger pressure cuffs, special imaging equipment, bigger operating tables, etc.

5 changes worth making

Altering your facility isn’t cheap – specialized equipment comes with higher price tag – but it’ll pay off in the long run. And you don’t have to fix every room, but you should alter a few rooms on every floor/specialty area.

Here are five things from ConscienHealth you can do to make obese patients easier to treat, more comfortable with their stay and safer:

  1. Make doorways in patient rooms and bathrooms wider to accommodate wider beds, walkers and wheelchairs.
  2. Replace toilets with larger, sturdier ones that can safely hold excessive weight.
  3. Purchase beds and furniture that are specifically designed to accommodate morbidly obese patients.
  4. Acquire lifts made to safely move and transfer morbidly obese patients. Not only will they keep your patients safe, they will help protect your staff from injuring themselves.
  5. Purchase proper diagnostic equipment that can accommodate excessive weight such as scales, larger blood pressure cuffs, CT scanner, etc. There’s nothing more humiliating than taking obese patients down to the loading dock to get weighed (which has been done) because you don’t have a scale to accommodate them.

Routine patients

Making these changes is a necessity now that hospitals see morbidly obese patients routinely.

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, FL, on average treats patients who weigh more than 400 lbs. once a week. And while patients who weigh more than 600 lbs. are a rarity, the facility’s still prepared to treat them.

When St. Joseph’s unveiled its new emergency room, what stood out was its treatment room for obese patients that included a larger bed, floor-mounted toilets and scales, and a lift that can hoist a person weighing almost 1,000 lbs.

When Parkland Hospital in Dallas was remodeled, it was done with the obese patient population in mind.

“The bariatric population” – typically defined as patients having a body mass index of 40 or higher – “wasn’t an afterthought,” said Kathy Harper, vice president of clinical coordination, new campus construction, at Parkland, in a New York Times article. “They’re a very special population. We thought a lot about their needs and how to accommodate them.”

Now, each one of the 862 single-patient rooms in the new 17-story tower can accommodate obese patients.

“Most hospitals we are building are providing an increasingly larger percentage of rooms that can accommodate the larger person,” said Nancy Connolly, a senior executive at Hammes Company, a hospital consulting group, in the same article. “In the last five to 10 years, maybe two rooms could accommodate them. Now, 15% to 20% of rooms can accommodate them.”

It wasn’t just obese patients Parkland Hospital kept in mind for its redesign. It also thought about obese visitors. Chairs in each room can hold a 400-lb person, and the love seats in each room unfold into visitors’ beds that can support 750 lbs.



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