Equipping Your Facility for Bariatric Patients

March 1, 2008 | Evaluations & Guidance


Every day, hospitals and other healthcare facilities treat an increasing number of extremely obese patients. These patients require special consideration throughout the continuum of care—anywhere that bariatric patients may be cared for, from the time they arrive at the hospital to the time they leave. Facilities need to provide not only equipment that can accommodate the size and weight of bariatric patients, but also enough space for the equipment to be maneuvered safely.

For example, when a 400 lb patient arrives in the emergency room (ER), many hospitals aren’t prepared. To get an accurate measure of weight, the patient might have to undergo the embarrassment of being weighed on a freight elevator because no standard scale will suffice and a patient scale with sufficient weight capacity is unavailable. A blood pressure reading might not be attempted if a standard cuff is too small to encircle an obese patient’s arm. And if lifts and transfer aids are unavailable, staff members might have to manually transfer a patient from a wheelchair to a bed, creating a serious injury risk for both the caregivers and the patient.

Clearly, the needs of this population must be addressed. Although substantial amounts of money and time may be required to create a bariatric-friendly environment, incorporating these changes can have highly valuable results, including promoting patient safety and comfort, decreasing the risk of injury, and improving clinical outcomes.

Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the treatment of obesity. Obesity is medically defined as increased body weight caused by excessive accumulation of fat. To assess obesity-related health risks, the body mass index (BMI) is used. BMI is determined...

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