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Missed diagnosis-a major barrier to patient access to obesity healthcare in the primary care setting.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether individuals with an elevated BMI measurement, for whom a diagnosis of overweight or obesity (OW/OB) is not recorded, are less likely to be offered clinical care for obesity compared to those with a recorded diagnosis.

SUBJECTS: A retrospective cohort study using the electronic medical record database of Maccabi Healthcare Services (MHS) in Israel. Included were 200,000 adults with BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 measurement recorded during a primary care visit between 2014 and 2020, and no prior diagnosis of OW/OB or related co-morbidities.

METHODS: The relationships between a recorded diagnosis of OW/OB and two composite outcomes: 1. A composite of referrals to screening tests for metabolic complications; 2. A composite of weight loss intervention and follow up, were analyzed using multivariate logistic regression models.

RESULTS: In only 18% of individuals, a diagnosis of OW/OB was recorded. After adjusting for multiple potential confounding factors, individuals who received a recorded diagnosis were 18% more likely to be offered an evaluation for obesity-related metabolic complication, (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.15-1.21, p < 0.001), and almost twice as likely to be offered intervention and follow up for their excess body weight (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.76-1.94, p < 0.001) compared to individuals with missed diagnosis. These results persisted after adjusting for inter-physician variability. In addition, male sex, older age, and Arab sector were all associated with lower rates of weight loss intervention and follow up, while young individuals were less likely to be screened for metabolic complications.

CONCLUSION: Beyond BMI measurement, a recorded diagnosis of OW/OB is associated with statistically and clinically significant higher rates of performance of obesity care and intervention. Undiagnosed OW/OB presents a significant clinical opportunity, as recording a diagnosis of OW/OB would predict improved patient access to obesity healthcare and improved clinical outcomes.

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