When patients go into the hospital, one thing they may not expect is to leave malnourished. But, that is exactly what occurs to one-third of patients admitted to hospitals. Malnutrition is not always recognized and often goes untreated during hospitalization. Weight loss and poor nutritional intake can delay the healing and recovery process. This may lead to more challenging recoveries, and in many cases, relaspse and readmission.
Disease-associated malnutrition is a common and widespread problem. Older adults are especially at risk. Clinical evidence shows that solid, well-balanced nutrition is essential to health. The effects of poor nutritional status are evident in those who were recently hospitalized and recovering from an acute illness. Malnutrition in the frail and elderly is an important area of concern. Poor outcomes related to malnutrition, may occur:
- Increased risk of pressure ulcers
- Impaired wound healing
- Increased infection rate
- Muscle wasting
- Functional loss, resulting in more falls
- Longer hospital stays
- Higher readmission rates
- Higher treatment costs
- Increased mortality
Nutrition Care and Patient Outcomes
Research shows that nutritional intervention has a positive impact on patient outcomes. Benefits include:
- 25 percent reduction in pressure ulcer incidence
- 14 percent fewer overall complications
- 28 percent decrease in avoidable readmissions
- 2-day reduction in average length of stay
The Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition recommends taking action to improve patient outcomes. Here are some steps:
- Recognize and diagnose all patients at risk for malnutrition.
- Rapidly implement nutrition interventions and continue to monitor patients..
- Develop a discharge plan for patient nutrition care and education.
Many transitional care plans are missing an important component – nutrition care. Providing access to food allows the frail and elderly to regain their strength and energy faster. Proper nutrition for those at risk improves patient outcomes following surgery or a hospitalization.
Many health plans are adding home-delivered meals for seniors to the supplemental benefits. Post-discharge meals significantly impact both short-term recovery results and the long-term health of patients.
For more information, download our ebook, The Impact of Nutrition Care and Patient Outcomes.