Risk managers must plan for bariatric care


With obesity on the rise, assessment, advanced planning and awareness are essential in order to avoid common hazards and accidents surrounding the care of bariatric patients. That is the view of Cindy Wallace, a senior risk management analyst for the ECRI Institute.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that one in three US adults is obese whereas about 20 years ago it was about one in five, and about six per cent of the adult population is extremely obese today whereas 20 years ago it was three per cent – so the treatment of bariatric patients is a growing issue and an important issue,” she said.

She added that the ECRI Institute has seen a significant number of events involving equipment issues – such as a lack of bariatric beds – and issues involving a lack of preparation, such as a lack of readiness to care for an obese patient who had to undergo a caesarean section.

In order to mitigate the risk of adverse events, she said risk managers need to bring together the appropriate individuals within their facility to examine their current process for providing care to obese individuals.
“They need to look at how the facility is designed, what the infrastructure is like and what type of equipment and supplies you currently have,” she said.

She added that risk managers should gather data on the population their facility currently serves, and find out what percentage of their patients are obese or extremely obese. It is also important to review any event data involving individuals who are obese to see where there have been problems or complaints, and to examine staffing and training issues in the light of this information. It will often be necessary to purchase or hire specialised equipment, and possibly to make infrastructural changes.

“It’s also important to prepare in advance when you can,” she added. “Some admissions to a healthcare facility are elective so you need to work with your admitting physicians to let the facility know in advance that an individual is obese.”

Finally, staff training is essential – not only to pre-empt safety hazards but also to ensure obese patients are handled sensitively.

“Some caregivers have been found to view a person who is obese as lazy or non-compliant and healthcare facilities really need to address those attitudes,” she said.


bariatric care, risk managers, obesity, ECRI Institute