American healthcare facilities are seeing an influx of patients suffering from obesity-related issues. Unfortunately due to their unpreparedness, we see a huge gap in terms of demand and the ability to serve this niche patient group. Only private medical businesses that deal with bypass or other types of weight-loss surgeries currently offer specialized bariatric care complete with facilities, equipment and resources that are designed to handle this patient group.
“Obesity is a problem in this country that’s not going away,” says Christopher Upton, a project manager at the University of Texas Office of Facilities, Planning, and Construction (Austin, Texas).
Right now access to bariatric care is mostly confined to areas with the highest obesity rates. Shockingly there are cities and states that have little support programs in place.
Before expanding services and care in a hospital, one has to understand a bariatric patient’s specialized physical handling requirements and specific health concerns. Upton suggests breaking down bariatric care into four levels. For instance, Level 1 would deal with “…bariatric patients having a BMI of 30 or more, no visible skin sores or blisters, a waist of more than 45 inches, and moderate independence when it comes to maintaining hygiene and dressing themselves.” A Level 4 patient would exceed 450 pounds and be fully dependent on caregivers.
If every hospital in the country followed basic design guidelines such as installing patient lifts, bariatric toilets, adding larger bed sizes, and making sure doorway widths are designed to accommodate bariatric equipment, then they would be better equipped to deal with the specialized needs of bariatric patients.
Providers can then seek increased reimbursement rates from insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid programs, Upton says, “Once the reimbursement rates start to reflect the specialized equipment, staffing, and spaces that are needed to handle these patients, then more hospitals will bring it online.”
This article is extremely thought provoking. Redesigning existing hospital spaces to suit a particular medical need of a patient would require a lot of funding, but it’s a win win for everyone in the future. A healthy nation is after all a prosperous nation. (image via shutterstock)