Overweight People Are More Apt To Ditch Doctors | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Overweight People Are More Apt To Ditch Doctors

Play associated audio

Patients struggling with obesity can have a tough time finding the right doctor, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"Patients often complain that their primary care doctor is too judgmental or harsh with them about their weight," says Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, an internal medicine physician at Johns Hopkins. She sees lots of overweight and obese patients who want to lose weight, but feel that their doctor isn't supporting them in that effort. Because of that, she says, patients want to find another doctor. And they often do.

That prompted Gudzune to do a study to see whether this was a trend. She looked at medical records of more than 20,000 people enrolled in a single health insurance plan. She compared how often patients switched doctors. Switching doctors more than five times over two years was considered "doctor shopping," which correlates with less preventive medicine and continuity of care.

It turned out overweight patients doctor-shopped 23 percent more than patients of normal weight. Obese patients sought out new doctors at a rate 52 percent higher than that of normal weight patients. The results were published in the journal Obesity.

This study couldn't say why these patients switched doctors so much. But Gudzune says that other research finds that primary care settings can be uncomfortable for overweight patients. Staff can be judgmental. And equipment, like blood pressure cuffs and exam tables, is often too small.

Another recent study found that one-third of medical students are biased against overweight and obese patients, and two-thirds of the students didn't realize it.

If patients don't have a stable primary care provider, they are more likely to end up in the hospital ER when they have a problem. And that's exactly what Gudzune found. In her study, overweight and obese patients were 80 percent more likely to go to the hospital emergency room than were normal weight patients.

"Interestingly, they did not have increased rates of hospitalization over that period, which suggests to me that these patients were using the emergency room potentially for conditions that really didn't need the emergency room," Gudzune says.

Other studies have found that not only are ER visits more costly than visits with a primary care doctor, but patient health can be compromised. According to Gudzune, "patients who have the same doctor are less likely to need to use the emergency room; they're also more likely to get all of their preventive health screens such as breast cancer screening or colon cancer screening."

Bottom line, says Gudzune: Improved communication between doctors and patients could make a big difference not only in patient health but also in helping patients lose weight.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Math Is Everywhere, But Especially On National Mall This Weekend

The first National Math Festival of its kind comes to the District Saturday, taking over the National Mall and Smithsonian museums.
NPR

How The Food Industry Relies On Scientists With Big Tobacco Ties

Critics of the system that ushers food products to market say it is rife with conflicts of interest. When scientists depend on food companies for work, they may be less likely to contest food safety.
NPR

On Links As In Life, D.C. Bipartisan Relations Are Deep In The Rough

Golf is a sport that's been enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans through the decades, but bipartisan golf outings may be disappearing like a shanked tee shot into a water hazard.
NPR

What Does It Take To Feel Secure?

Computer security expert Bruce Schneier says there's a big difference between feeling secure and being secure. He explains why we worry about unlikely dangers while ignoring more probable risks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.