Hospitals and healthcare systems are addressing the Social Determinants of Health for their patients throughout the continuum of care. Studies show that social, economic, and environmental factors are contributing factors to patient health.
Food insecurity is one of the most common social determinants of health. For those living in food deserts where access to healthy food is difficult, this is especially troubling. Malnutrition is one of the most significant contributors to hospitalizations and readmissions:
- Approximately one-third of patients are malnourished upon admission to the hospital. If left untreated, nearly two-thirds of these patients will become even more compromised during their hospitalization
- Roughly one-third of patients not malnourished at admission will become malnourished during their hospital stay
- Providing access to food allows for the at-risk patients to regain their strength and energy sooner; saving hospitals money
Hospital discharge plans provide instructions for your patients and their caregivers when they go home. But nutrition can often be excluded. Patients discharged without a post-care plan can lead to a 50% increase in readmission expenses. Including a nutrition care component can help to improve patient outcomes.
Patients may experience pain, decreased energy, poor appetite, weakness, and health-related dietary restrictions after discharge. These symptoms make preparing and eating nutritious meals difficult. Weight loss and insufficient nutrient intake can delay the healing and recovery process, resulting in longer, more challenging recoveries, and in many cases, relapse and readmission. Also, at-risk patients (elderly and chronically ill) may need to choose between paying for food or their medication. Providing home-delivered post-discharge meals to these at-risk patients has shown impressive results.
Nutrition care plays an essential role in healthcare in several ways:
- Malnutrition can result in poor outcomes and increased costs among hospitalized patients.
- More than $147 billion is spent in the U.S. each year on disease-associated malnutrition.
- Nutrition interventions can alleviate a significant degree of burden of malnutrition in the hospital setting.
- Hospital admission rates show that the care for hospitalized malnourished patients costs twice as much as the cost of a well-nourished one.
More than ever, it is vital to help patients stay in their own homes. Many post-discharge patients suffer from at least one chronic condition and need to avoid public places, like grocery stores and public transportation.
Hospitals can extend services beyond their walls by providing nutrition to patients at home. Home-delivered meals are an easy and cost-effective way to show your patients you care about them after leaving your hospital and improving outcomes.