Supplement use cuts length and cost of hospital stays, study finds

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Supplement use cuts length and cost of hospital stays, study finds
A large scale statistical study has concluded that the use of oral nutritional supplements can cut the length of hospital stays, cut costs, and reduce the chance of readmissions.

In the study funded by Abbott Nutrition, a team that included Julia Thornton Snider, PhD,  an economist at Precision Health Economics, looked at the problem of malnourishment among patients during longer hospital stays.  The study found ONS use cut the average length of stay by more than 2 days and average episode cost by more than $4,700. In addition, ONS use cut the likelihood of readmission within 30 days by almost 7%.

“I did expect that there would be a benefit of nutrition but I was impressed at the magnitude of the benefit,”​ Snider told NutraIngredients-USA. “It is fairly unusual in the health economics literature to find benefits of this size.”

Large scale study

The study included data from 44 million individual events, and was collected from 460 sites in the 2000-2010 time frame.  The authors estimate this data covers about 20% of the inpatient episodes during that period.

Using a variety of statistical tools, Snider and her team looked at how the use of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) affected the length of hospital stay and the likelihood that a patient would be readmitted within a 30-day window.  The study quantified the cost savings for ONS use. ONS are defined as products that provide a complete suite of macro and micronutrients.

Of the 44 million inpatient episodes, about 724,000 involved ONS use.  The data showed that ONS use was of most benefit to the sickest patients, but showed some benefit for all patients.

Highly cost effective

And the study showed that ONS use is a very cost effective adjunct to the treatment of these patients. The ONS regime cost about $88 per episode.  When ranged against the cost savings, the authors calculated that $52.63 in health care costs was saved for every dollar spent on ONS.

The study’s authors noted that their results were consistent with other controlled trials looking at ONS and long term hospital stays. They did note that the database used, from the Premier Hospital system, did have limitations. The data was collected from hospital forms that list many more data points than would be seen on the typical insurance payment form. But they are not medical records, which are protected by privacy laws.

“When we think about where it would interesting to do futurue research, it would be nice to have richer data. Something akin to medical records would be interesting,”​ Snider said. “And the Premier data is hospital data so it doesn’t shed a lot of light of what happens outside of the hospital.”

Source: Impact of Oral Nutritional Supplementation on Hospital Outcomes​; Snider JT et al; AJMC.com; February 2013.

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