“Well, the doctor didn’t say anything during my visit, so it must not be a problem.”
Those are the thoughts of many patients as they leave their doctor’s office after another visit where their weight was not discussed. Medical providers have the dubious task of making sure they address their patients’ health issues to the best of their ability. And in the politically correct world we live in today, they also must be inoffensive while doing so.
It’s a difficult duty to be charged with. But if you aren’t discussing a patient’s weight, are you effectively addressing their health? When it comes to weight loss, the evidence is clear: A doctor’s recommendation to their patients about weight loss is effective.
How do you approach a patient about weight loss? Start with:
• Ask permission to discuss weight
• Ask open-ended questions
• Build trust, don’t judge
• Focus on health and not weight
More times than not, the most difficult step in a journey is the first one — it’s the same with a doctor talking about weight loss to a patient. Bringing up your concerns about your patient’s weight may prove to be the most burdensome part of the conversation.
To alleviate some of the awkwardness, be non-offensive and compassionate. Don’t blame, provoke guilt, or judge. This is a collaborative effort that will have the best results when there is involvement and trust among everyone involved. Once the trust is established it will be easier to have an open discussion, and the health care provider will be better equipped with information from the patient to address underlying issues for being overweight.
However, none of this means much if the patient isn’t fully invested in losing weight. Be prepared to explore and gauge patient’s readiness and motivation to change. Discuss your concern about their weight, and the impact weight loss would have on their overall health and quality of life. This is a big step for a patient and if it proves to be successful they won’t come out the same person they went in as.
In addition, set goals with your patient, both long- and short-term. Make them challenging but attainable; a dieter can lose interest with a challenge if it’s too difficult or too easy. It’s a balance. Help your patient identify success and be prepared to offer solutions. Nutrition, behavior modification, exercise assistance — all these and more should be discussed.
Physicians are in a unique position of being able to change lives through obesity treatment. Obesity has the most impact of any disease in the world today, and this is an opportunity that cannot be missed.
Robard Corporation provides extensive tools to assist medical providers with speaking to their patients about their weight. Complete our provider form and a representative will be happy to contact you and discuss your particular needs.
For additional tips and information, NIH has some here (PDF download) and here. You can also watch this recent Robard webinar – “Talking to Patients about Obesity: Opening THAT Conversation” – presented by Angela Golden, DNP, FNP-C, FAANP.