March 2020 DOI:10.33940/data/2020.3.4
How Safety Is Compromised When Hospital Equipment Is a Poor Fit for Patients Who Are Obese
‚ÄčAuthor Biography


Elizabeth Kukielka, Patient Safety Authority
Elizabeth Kukielka ( is a patient safety analyst on the Data Science and Research team at the Patient Safety Authority. Before joining the PSA, she was a promotional medical writer for numerous publications, including Pharmacy Times and The American Journal of Managed Care. Kukielka also worked for a decade as a community pharmacist and pharmacy manager, with expertise in immunization delivery, diabetes management, medication therapy management, and pharmacy compounding.


Obesity is common, serious, and costly, and according to recent data, its prevalence is on the rise in the United States. Event reports submitted to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Reporting System (PA-PSRS) indicate that some healthcare facilities do not have the necessary equipment to monitor and care for some individuals in this patient population, leading to embarrassment for patients, delays in care, and injuries to patients. An analysis of 107 events related to monitoring and patient care for patients who are obese submitted to PA-PSRS from 2009 through 2018 showed that imaging equipment, especially MRI and CT scanners, was most often implicated in event reports (49.5%; 53 events); other equipment included stretchers (24.3%; 26 events) and wheelchairs (11.2%; 12 events). Events most often occurred in an imaging department (30.8%; 33 events) or a medical/surgical unit (21.5%; 23 events). Analysts determined that 80 events (74.8%) resulted in a delay in care and that 44 events (41.1%) resulted in temporary harm to the patient, including skin tears and abrasions. Healthcare providers may not be able to prevent delays in care resulting from the unavailability of adequate equipment for patients who are obese, but they may be able to prevent harm and embarrassment for patients through proactive assessment.

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