Addressing Mobility and Patients of Size
by Kathy Everitt
Monday, February 4, 2019
With the graying of the population and obesity issues rising, it's more likely you'll encounter a “patient of size” at your practice. The term “patient of size” takes into account a patient's overall height and weight distribution, rather than just their body mass index.
According to the CDC, more than 60 million Americans have a BMI of 30 or greater. It might be a good time to think about your patient population and determine whether your practice is prepared to provide treatment for patients of size. This isn’t simply good for your patients; it also benefits you, in that assessment and treatment can be improved.
Basic tasks can be difficult for larger patients. Even sitting, standing, and walking can sometimes be difficult. Think about how you and your staff can safely accommodate and respect these patients by being prepared for their visit.
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes, and walk your office environment, from the parking lot to the exam rooms. Pay particular attention to these areas:
- Is the parking lot free of barriers that might inhibit mobility? Be sure to check in various seasons due to changing weather conditions.
- Is it easy to open the door and enter your office?
- Are there both armless chairs and chairs with arms in the waiting room? Armless chairs should have at least 6-8 inches between them.
- Do you have firm, high seating? Excess weight can be hard on knees.
In your exam room:
- Do scales have a capacity of more than 300 pounds?
- Are scales located in a private area?
- Are large-sized gowns available?
- Is the exam table adjustable?
- Is a sturdy step stool available to get onto the examination tables?
- Are large blood pressure cuffs available?
- It can be helpful to document the position of the patient during your examination (e.g., the patient was examined in the sitting position).
If patients of size feel uncomfortable, they may skip appointments or avoid coming in altogether, which can have negative consequences on their health.