Caring for Obese Patients Causes Injuries to Providers

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Reply Mon 31 Jan, 2005 11:49 am
Caring for Obese Patients Causes Injuries to Providers
VHA Hospitals Report Increases in Obese Patients and Related Worker Injuries; Caring for Obese Patients Costs Individual Hospitals Up to $200,000 Annually

IRVING, Texas, Jan. 31 / -- A nationwide survey of VHA Inc. hospitals shows that caring for obese patients is an increasing challenge as providers continue to experience spiraling costs, increases in worker injuries and a significant number of patients who are obese, even in pediatrics. Hospitals have seen the need for new equipment, supplies and training to properly care for this population. Many hospitals turn to their group purchasing relationships with companies like Novation, VHA's supply services company, to access and save money on bariatric-related supplies and resources.

Conducted by Novation, the VHA member survey queried 584 directors of
materials management and directors of surgical services across the country to determine the influence that treating severely obese patients (more than 100 pounds overweight) had on hospitals in 2004. It is a follow-up to a survey conducted in 2003. Eighty-two health care professionals, or 14 percent, responded.

"The cost of treating the severely obese patient shot up 24 percent in just one year," said Sandy Wise, RN, MBA, senior director of medical and surgical services at Novation. "What is really shocking is that 90 percent of obese patients are seen in the emergency departments and 53 percent of the pediatric patients are obese. These are not patients coming to the hospital for bariatric surgery, but are being seen for other medical conditions."

Following the emergency room, the other areas where obese patients are treated are in intensive care units, surgery and cardiology.

In addition to increased hospital spending, obese patients have affected
health care worker safety. Twenty-eight percent of respondents reported an increase in workplace injuries related to lifting obese patients, with back injuries being most common. With the current nursing shortage, hospitals cannot afford to have a nurse out because of an injury.

The majority, 84 percent, of VHA hospitals responding to the survey say they offer special training to help staff better understand how to care for
obese patients. Training most often centers on lifting or transferring
patients, including the proper use of lifting devices as well as sensitivity

Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Milwaukee is taking steps to
address the increasing obese population by purchasing wider equipment with larger weight capacities and by offering training for staff twice a year to learn how to properly care for obese patients.

"Our Injury Reduction Committee is addressing policies, procedures and
ongoing education needs related to the use of appropriate equipment to use in caring for all patients and the increasing obese population," said Lynne Mueller, R.N., clinical materials resource manager at Froedtert. "Much of our new equipment is geared towards safe transfer and care of the obese patients, such as lifts, transfer boards, reclining chairs, transfer devices and wheelchairs that all have higher weight capacities."

Most survey respondents indicated they had to order new products or
supplies to accommodate obese patients last year. At the top of the product lists were furniture for patients and visitors, surgical supplies, and lift and transfer equipment. The most common supplies purchased included wheelchairs and beds. Hospitals have spent up to $233,000 on new supplies in 2004.

Currently, Novation offers more than 800 of the most-widely used bariatric products in its bariatric portfolio and will continue to research issues faced by hospitals to provide the most cost-effective ways to control costs in hospitals while still maintaining a high level of care.

Wise said, "While this survey was not meant to produce exact figures, it
supports the trend that treating obese patients is a major challenge for
hospitals and health care professionals."

For a copy of the survey results, "2004 Obese Patient Care Survey Market
Research Report," go to .

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