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Hospital Malnutrition and Discharge Planning

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 4, 2015 1:10:00 PM

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This is the fourth of a 5-part series, Impact of Nutrition Care on Patient Outcomes.  In this series, we will review original research that shows the impact nutrition care has on patient outcomes.


Malnutrition is a common health issue

Hospital malnutrition in developed countries is more prevalent than most realize. Here are some statistics1:

- It is estimated that one-third of patients are malnourished upon admission to the hospital.

- If left untreated, approximately 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.

Malnutrition in the frail and elderly is an important area of concern, because it has been correlated with many poor outcomes2:

- 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 improves clinical outcomes

Most of these adverse outcomes are preventable or can be improved with nutrition intervention. The Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition has developed a model for interdisciplinary nutrition care. (Figure 1) 

static_abbottnutrition_com_cms-prod_malnutrition_com_img_Alliance_Care_Model_2014_v1_pdf Figure 1:  Source:

The Steering Committee of the Alliance published a call to action that outlines the comprehensive model from hospital admission through discharge.  Their sixth principle, Develop a Comprehensive Discharge Nutrition Care and Education Plan, ensures that nutrition goals achieved in the inpatient setting are not compromised once a patient is discharged1. 

Access to food is an important part of discharge planning

One area the Steering Committee suggests be addressed in the discharge plan is access to food.  This is one area that is frequently neglected in care transition planning and of particular concern for the frail and elderly.  Providing access to food through home-delivered, post-discharge meals allows the frail and elderly to regain their strength and energy sooner.  It also helps reduce unplanned hospital readmissions.  Proactive hospitals and health plans are providing post-discharge meals as part of transition care planning.  The GA Food’s home-delivered meals program allows the frail and elderly to have nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals and remain independent in their homes.

For more information on the benefits of post-discharge meals, see this blog post.

Contact John Siegel at GA Foods

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1Barker, LA. Et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013; 8(2):514-527.

 2Tappenden, KA, et al. J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2013;37:482-497.

Topics: Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals, MCO ROI

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