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Hospital survey

Bariatric surgery on the rise in USA

US hospitals are investing in equipment and training to prepare for heavier patients.
Number of operations and investment in equipment to deal with bariatric patients rising

Both the number of bariatric operations and the cost of dealing with obese patients in the USA have increased slightly over the last 18 months, according to a survey of hospitals.

The survey, which was commissioned by healthcare contracting company Novation and sent to hospitals ran by VHA and UnitedHealth Group, found that 74% of responding facilities reported an increase in the number of bariatric surgeries performed in the last year and a half.

More than half – 51% – of hospitals reported a corresponding rise in the rate of admissions of morbidly obese patients in the same period. This led to a 55% of facilities reporting that their expenses related to the treatment of morbidly obese patients had increased from the previous 18-month period.

Most hospitals reported that their greatest expense was the purchase or hire of beds, as well as examination/operating tables and lifts. Despite this expenditure, 25% of hospitals said that their emergency rooms were not currently equipped to handle morbidly obese patients.

Thirty six percent of respondents said that in the last year they had invested in physical renovation of their facilities in order to accommodate morbidly obese patients.

"The member hospitals we serve have seen a continual rise in the costs of treating obese patients, while also facing the financial pressures of the economy, reduced reimbursement and changes under health care reform," said Cathy Denning, vice president, sourcing operations at Novation. "Because of this, it is more important than ever that we help them lower their supply costs and assist in providing high quality care.”

In total, 45% of facilities said that they had a bariatric surgery programme, 53% had a fitness program, 60% had a weight loss program, and 61% had a counselling program.

Eighty seven percent of respondents said that their facilities offer gastric banding surgery, 69% offer gastric sleeve, and 77% offer laparoscopic gastric bypass. Seventy one percent of hospitals reported that they were accredited as Bariatric Centers of Excellence.

The number of injuries related to handling and caring for morbidly obese patients has reduced: 59% of hospitals said that they have seen a drop in the number of workplace injuries. Of the 59%, 77% said they believed it was due to purchasing equipment or offering training programs. Of the 41% who said they had seen an increase in the number of injuries, 90% said they have begun offering staff training for dealing with morbidly obese patients.

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