Bariatric Care: Ergo-mobility Improves Quality of Life

bariatric healthcare ergonomicsBariatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the treatment, control and management of obese individuals. The bariatric industry has shown rapid and continued growth as the population gets physically bigger.

As a result, ergonomic considerations come into play to support obese individuals to maintain and improve quality of life.

Obesity-related Healthcare Costs

Health consequences and health-care costs are very significant. Obesity is one of the biggest factors for a type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is also linked with increases in cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer), osteoarthritis, liver disease, sleep apnea, depression and other medical conditions that affect mortality and morbidity.

Obesity is noted as a contributing factor to over 100,000 deaths in the United States annually and has increased health care use and expenditures, costing society an estimated $190 billion per year. This cost includes $100 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and $90 billion in indirect (absenteeism, decreased productivity at work and loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs. The obesity health-care costs accounts for more than 6% of national health care expenditures in the United States. {1}

Several studies have documented substantial non-health related costs of obesity. A fuel consumption study compared a 1960’s weight baseline versus today. This study estimated that $5 billion extra jet fuel annually was needed to fly heavier Americans. Similarly, the study estimated that an additional $4 billion of gasoline was required as cars carry today’s heavier passengers. The implications of obesity were also identified in a study conducted by the US armed forces. Over 22 million Americans who were status eligible for military service exceeded the enlistment BMI weight standards. {2,3}

Lifestyle and Ergonomic Modifications to Support Obese Individuals

Many individuals make lifestyle changes while others modify their work and home environments to enhance their quality of life. Lifestyle changes include bariatric surgery, diet plans and exercise programs.

Workplace ergonomists employ a number of techniques to adapt work stations for obese employees. In 2010, a health care industry group released the first set of architectural standards to include bariatric design protocols as a way to offer better care to obese patients and protect care givers from injuries—like back problems—that might develop from moving heavy patients. Health care organizations routinely purchase larger operating tables, recliners, CT scans, and other technology that makes caring for obese patients easier.

Not surprisingly, this specialized equipment comes at a high price. A specialized bariatric hospital room costs about $55,000 which is more than double the cost of a standard equipped room – in large part due to the higher cost of bariatric beds, which are roughly $20,000 more expensive than standard beds. {4}

workplace ergonomics guide darcorHealth-care providers, both professional care-givers and family members, constantly look for improved quality of life solutions to assist with continued mobility for their obese patients. Positive healthcare ergonomic and cost benefits of well-designed medical casters include:

  • Reduced overexertion injuries through improved mobility
  • Decreased insurance payouts associated with worker injuries
  • Noise reduction providing peaceful environment for patients and caregivers
  • Reduction of equipment damage costs
  • Reduced cleaning and flooring replacement costs

Supporting obese individuals in today’s society, whether through workplace ergonomics or bariatric healthcare solutions, requires specialized design considerations. Specialized caster and wheel technologies have been developed to provide much lower pushing forces and long term performance (ERGO LONGEVITY™) caster solutions for medical devices and medical equipment.

For a thorough overview of workplace ergonomics, download the Guide to Workplace Ergonomics.


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