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Going the extra mile to make patients feel welcome

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics July 2021
Volume 98
Issue 7

As providers, we need to create a welcoming environment for all patients to ensure they don’t postpone care or avoid it entirely.

Many people are anxious when it comes to visiting their health care provider. Results from one study found that many patients avoid going to the doctor because they feel uncomfortable seeking medical care or fear a serious illness. As providers, we need to recognize these issues and create a welcoming environment for all patients to ensure they don’t postpone care or avoid it entirely.

This can be especially important when working with overweight or obese patients. We must practice compassionate care and create an office that’s inclusive for patients of all shapes and sizes. From providing chairs that are designed for patients at higher weights to having blood pressure cuffs that fit properly cuffs, patients must feel welcome while in your care. They will be more open about their health issues and you will be better able to engage in genuine conversations that are rooted in trust.

Practice with compassion

The concept of compassionate care is not new to the medical community. We’ve always been committed to sharing our clinical expertise and delivering health messages with an empathetic tone. However, not every provider has a supportive bedside manner, and this can adversely affect patients with obesity.

One mistake physicians make when treating patients suffering from obesity is instructing them to lose weight, but not providing guidance to help along the way. Just telling a patient to “lose weight” is as unhelpful as suggesting to a patient with depression “think happy thoughts.” Instead, providers should collaborate with patients to develop a comprehensive obesity treatment that includes intensive lifestyle intervention, structured nutritional assistance, physical activity prescription, and medical management.

Create a patient-friendly environment

From the moment a patient enters your office, they should feel welcome. The front desk staff should be courteous and knowledgeable when addressing patients with obesity and other health conditions. Most importantly, patients should feel encouraged before, during, and after their appointments.

Here are some ways to ensure your office is inviting:

  • Weigh patients in a private setting on a scale that can accommodate higher BMI patients.
  • Offer furniture that allows patients of all sizes to sit comfortably.
  • Use equipment and supplies (e.g., blood pressure cuffs, exam tables, gowns, etc.) designed for larger patients.

Leverage today’s technology

In addition to the solutions mentioned above, there are also technological tools that can enhance your patient’s experience. A body composition scale breaks down a patient’s BMI into fat and fat-free weight, skeletal muscle, and visceral fat. The scale offers insights that go beyond just the body weight and helps providers hone-in on factors that affect weight loss. Another way to motivate patients is with a take-home report that charts their weight-loss progress and health improvements. Lastly, consider supporting patients outside of the office with a HIPAA-compliant portal for virtual or phone appointments.

Making patients feel secure and cared for is what we strive for every day. By being aware of how we speak with patients and how we welcome them into our office environment, we can help people feel more comfortable turning to us with their health concerns. And this, in turn, enables us to provide them with the care they need and deserve.

Ethan Lazarus, M.D., FOMA, has practiced full-time obesity medicine since 2004, and has served on the board of the Obesity Medicine Association since 2013. He is also a delegate in the American Medical Association.

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