Background: In obese adults, physicians often fail to identify obesity and recommend treatments for it. We sought to determine whether a computerized body mass index (BMI) chart prompt would increase the likelihood that patients of family physicians would be diagnosed with obesity and referred for obesity treatment.
Methods: A total of 846 obese patients of 37 family physicians were randomly assigned to either have a patient's BMI chart prompt placed in their electronic medical record (intervention group) or not have a BMI prompt (comparison group) placed in the record. We then examined patient medical records for evidence of an obesity diagnosis and referral for specific obesity treatments. We also measured whether the presence of comorbidities in obese patients influenced the likelihood of diagnoses and treatments by the physicians.
Results: Obese patients of physicians who had a BMI chart prompt in their medical records were significantly more likely than obese patients of physicians who did not receive a BMI chart prompt to receive a diagnosis of obesity (16.6% versus 10.7%; P=.016). Patients of physicians who were provided with a BMI chart prompt were also more likely than patients of physicians who did not get a chart prompt to receive a referral for diet treatment (14.0% versus 7.3%, P=.002) and exercise (12.1% versus 7.1%, P=.016). Of the obesity comorbidities, only obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a predictor of a patient being diagnosed with obesity (OR=.49, 95% CI=0.281, 0.869, P=.014).
Conclusions: Inclusion of a computerized BMI chart prompt increased the likelihood that physicians would diagnose obesity in obese patients and refer them for treatment.