Physicians often have negative attitudes regarding obesity, and many express dissatisfaction about caring for obese patients. Meanwhile, obese patients often feel their physicians are disrespectful or biased against them because of their appearance. Such observations raise concern that obese patients may receive lower quality care than non-obese patients.
Thankfully however, a recent study by Virginia Chang and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania has shown that medical care for obese patients is at least as good, and in some instances marginally better than that provided to other patients.
To reach these conclusions, Chang’s group compared physicians’ performance on 8 common outpatient quality measures for obese vs. non-obese patients. The study population included 36,122 patients from the Medicare Beneficiary Survey (1994-2006) and 33,500 patients from the Veterans Health Administration (2003-2004).
The scientists tracked performance for diabetes care (eye examination, glycated hemoglobin testing and lipid screening), pneumococcal vaccination, influenza vaccination, screening mammography, colorectal cancer screening, and cervical cancer screening. Data were obtained from administrative claims, survey data and chart review.
Overall, they found no evidence to suggest that obese or overweight patients received “recommended care” less frequently than normal-weight patients. In fact, obese patients received recommended care for lipid screening (72% versus 65%) and glycated hemoglobin testing (74% versus 62%) more frequently than normal-weight diabetic patients.
“Even though physicians might harbor negative attitudes towards obese patients, it doesn’t seem to be borne out in the quality of care they’re delivering,” Chang told MedPage Today. “So I think both physicians and patients can feel some degree of relief on that front.”
The write-up appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.