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'Doctor shopping' by obese patients negatively affects health
Date:5/21/2013

Overweight and obese patients are significantly more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to repeatedly switch primary care doctors, a practice that disrupts continuity of care and leads to more emergency room visits, new Johns Hopkins research suggests.

The practice of "doctor shopping" among overweight patients may be a result of negative experiences with the health care system, whether that be off-putting comments by office staff, unsolicited weight loss advice by providers, or improperly sized medical equipment and office furniture, says Kimberly A. Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor in the division of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Gudzune led the research described online in the journal Obesity.

Gudzune, who has conducted other research on challenges faced by overweight patients in their interactions with the health care system, and her colleagues define doctor shopping as seeing three or more different primary care physicians over the course of 24 months. In their study of more than 20,700 patients in a BlueCross BlueShield claims database, the researchers found that 23 percent met the definition. The odds of doctor shopping increased by 19 percent for overweight patients and 37 percent for obese patients, as compared with normal-weight patients in the database. Four percent of patients saw five or more primary care doctors over two years, a practice more likely in obese and overweight patients as well.

Gudzune cautions that not all doctor shopping is counterproductive or ill-considered. "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 says. The concerning issue, she adds, is that some patients may not find a provider that they connect with and are then driven to keep searching for new ones.

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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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