-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that people
who are overweight or obese are more likely to engage in "doctor
shopping" -- repeatedly changing their primary care physician.
Recurrent bad experiences with doctors -- being made to feel
uncomfortable during office visits -- may be to blame for the
trend, the researchers said.
"There's something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people," study author Dr. Kimberly Gudzune, an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"If they feel judged or hear offhanded comments about their weight, if the blood pressure cuff won't fit properly or they are afraid the examination table will not support their weight, it reinforces negative stereotypes obese patients encounter elsewhere," Gudzune explained. "We need to strive to create a safe, judgment-free environment where all patients can receive satisfying medical care."
The study involved more than 20,700 patients in a BlueCross
BlueShield claims database. The researchers found that 23 percent
of patients engaged in "doctor shopping," seeing three or more
primary care physicians within a two-year span. The research team
noted that overweight patients were 19 percent more likely to
repeatedly change doctors, while obese patients were 37 percent
more likely to do so.
The study also found that 4 percent of patients saw at least
five doctors over the course of two years. Those who were
overweight or obese were more likely to be among this group.
Overall, overweight and obese people who shopped around for a
doctor were also 85 percent more likely than normal-weight "doctor
shoppers" to require a visit to the ER. The researchers believe,
however, that many of the issues experienced by the patients could
have been addressed or prevented in a doctor's office.
"The real problem here is that the health of overweight and obese patients who doctor shop is being compromised," Gudzune said. "Because they do not remain with their doctors for very long, they are ending up in the emergency room, likely for things that could have been taken care of in a primary care office."
Prior studies have shown that continuity in care is linked to
fewer hospitalizations, trips to the ER, greater use of preventive
services and reduced health care costs, Gudzune's team noted. The
researchers believe more study is needed to determine the exact
cause of doctor shopping among overweight and obese patients.
Finding a physician that does not make a patient feel
stigmatized or uncomfortable is key to better health care, Gudzune
said. "If you are dissatisfied with your care or feel judged
because of your weight, then you may be better served by finding a
provider who can meet your needs," she advised.
The findings were published online this month in
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information
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