Overweight and obese patients are more likely to frequently switch physicians than normal weight patients, according to the results of a study published online on May 13, 2013, in Obesity. The study also found that “doctor shopping” among obese patients may lead to more emergency department (ED) visits.
The researchers used data on more than 20,700 patients in a BlueCross BlueShield database to evaluate the association between weight and doctor shopping. Patients were categorized as doctor shoppers if they had outpatient claims with 5 or more primary care physicians during a 2-year period.
The results indicated that, compared with normal-weight patients, overweight patients were 23% more likely and obese patients were 52% more likely to doctor shop. Overweight and obese “shoppers” were also more likely to visit the ED.
Lead study author Kimberly Gudzune, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes many overweight patients feel criticized by their physician, leading them to search for a new one.
“There’s something going wrong in these doctor-patient relationships that make these switches so frequent for this group of people,” said Dr. Gudzune in a press release. “We need to strive to create a safe, judgment-free environment where all patients can receive satisfying medical care.”