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Now patients struggling with obesity can often have a tough time finding the right doctor. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports on new research from Johns Hopkins University that shows overweight patients are more likely to doctor shop.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Researchers describe doctor shopping as switching doctors more than five times over two years.

Dr. Kimberly Gudzune specializes in weight management. During her clinics, patients often complain that their primary care doctor is too harsh about their weight and they want a different doctor. That prompted her study, which looked at the medical records of more than 20,000 patients.

DR. KIMBERLY GUDZUNE: Doctor shopping was 23 percent higher among overweight patients as compared to normal weight; and 52 percent higher for obese patients as compared to those of normal weight.

NEIGHMOND: Gudzune doesn't know why these patients switched doctors so much. But she says other research finds primary care settings can be uncomfortable for overweight patients. Staff can be judgmental. And equipment, like blood pressure cuffs and exam tables, are often too small.

In the study, overweight and obese patients were 80 percent more likely to end up in the hospital ER than normal weight patients.

GUDZUNE: Interestingly, they did not have increased rates of hospitalizations over that same period, which suggests to me that, you know, these patients were using the emergency department potentially for conditions that, you know, really didn't need to go to the emergency room.

NEIGHMOND: Trips to the ER cost far more than visits to a primary care doctor. And for patients, not having a stable doctor can jeopardize their health.

GUDZUNE: Patients who have the same doctor are less likely to need to use the emergency room. They're also more likely to get all of their preventive health screening, such as breast cancer screening and colon cancer screening.

NEIGHMOND: Gudzune says improved communication between doctors and patients could make a big difference not only in patient health but also in helping patients lose weight.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.



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