The Need for Healthcare Design with Bariatric Patients in Mind

by JRSBlogWriterOctober 16, 2018

Designing healthcare spaces with bariatric patients in mind has become a pressing need because more than one third (38.9%) of U.S. adults are obese. Healthcare providers are apt to interact with a relatively higher percentage of obese patients due to related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, driving them to seek treatment.

USA Obesity Data Map for Bariatric Patients in Healthcare 

Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by State and Territory. Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

In addition to these obesity-related conditions, there is also a boom in bariatric surgical procedures, bringing an ever-increasing number of obese patients to healthcare providers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of U.S. hospitals are grossly under-equipped to accommodate the growing number of overweight patients. You need to look no further than a typical patient room, and particularly the patient bathroom, for proof. 

Toilets for Bariatric Patients

At first glance, nothing in the patient bathroom seems out of the ordinary, but ordinary is precisely the problem. The toilet you find in a patient room is most likely a standard vitreous china toilet (porcelain toilet). At best, these toilets (marketed for bariatric use) are made to hold 350-500 pounds of static load.

Static load is tested by placing a weight on the seat every so slowly to prove the toilet can withstand that weight. However, the action of a 350 plus pound patient sitting on a toilet is considered dynamic load, a concept very different from a static load. Some call this the “plop factor,” and without going too deep into the physics of dynamic load, the pressure the toilet is under can be significantly higher than 350 pounds and that pressure can damage the toilet.

However, it’s not just the damage to property you should be concerned with in these situations. While it is time-consuming and expensive to be replacing toilets; it’s nothing compared to the danger a broken porcelain toilet poses to the person who was unlucky enough to be the one to sit down on it when finally does shatter. Broken vitreous china can be as treacherous as shattered glass. 

stainless steel bariatric patient toilet

We recommend a stainless steel toilet for safety and durability as they can withstand over 2000 pounds of static load and a far heavier dynamic load than china toilets. In the past, we typically recommended a floor mounted toilet for added safety and stability, but now we are confident in the performance of our wall mounted stainless steel toilets when paired with a bariatric carrier. This option provides ease of cleaning, and with the vast array of powder coatings available, no one will even know it is stainless steel and not china.

Sinks for Bariatric Patients

The patient sink is another fixture that needs to stand up to heavy loads. Patients often have mobility issues whether it’s from soreness due to their disease or surgery, or even a result of the medication they are on.

bariatric patient stainless steel powder coated sinkOften, when getting up from the toilet, patients will grab hold of the sink for leverage to help them get to their feet. Even when just going from their bed to the bathroom they may need to rest and will steady themselves by leaning their weight against the sink.


Here again, you need to select appropriate fixtures that can handle heavier loads. Whitehall bariatric sinks, such as the one pictured here, will support 1,000 pounds with the proper wall carrier. These sinks are powder coated stainless steel for extra strength and fit ADA, behavioral healthcare, and bariatric needs.


Outfitting just a few patient rooms for bariatric needs is no longer an efficient use of space given the statistics above. We recommend a Universal Design approach—creating areas that are suited for everyone regardless of their ability, age, size, or mental state. With Universal Design, you no longer have the challenge of finding an available bariatric room for specific patients. Every single room is designed, built and equipped to welcome any and every patient. 

For more information on Whitehall Manufacturing bariatric toilets and sinks and all our products designed to serve the healthcare community, please contact us, or visit our healthcare product page.