Nutrition program could save hospitals up to $3,800 per patient

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The total economic burden (direct & indirect) of disease-associated malnutrition in the US is estimated to be $157 billion each year (JPEN, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 2, Suppl 77S-85S). Image © iStock/Ridofranz
The total economic burden (direct & indirect) of disease-associated malnutrition in the US is estimated to be $157 billion each year (JPEN, 2014, Vol. 38, No. 2, Suppl 77S-85S). Image © iStock/Ridofranz

Related tags: Nutrition, Health, Health care

Tackling malnutrition in American hospitals could help save millions of dollars by shortening hospital stays and lowering readmission rates, says a new study conducted in four Chicago area hospitals.

One out of every three people admitted to hospitals are either malnourished or at-risk of malnutrition, which affects recovery, and increases the risk of complications and readmission. A new study published in American Health & Drug Benefits​ found that screening patients on admission, rapidly starting at-risk patients on oral nutritional supplements, and educating them on supplement adherence produced significant reductions in hospital stays and readmission rates.

This results in costs savings of almost $5 million for Advocate Health Care across four of its Chicago area hospitals.

“The study's findings demonstrate that modest changes in the way we care for patients, such as ensuring patients are nourished during their hospital stay, can have a big impact in reducing costs and improving health outcomes,”​ said Lee Sacks, MD, executive VP and chief medical officer of Advocate Health Care.

The study was funded by Abbott, and performed by scientists at Abbott Nutrition, Advocate Health Care, the Center for Applied Value Analysis, AHEAD GmbH-Agency for Health Economic Assessment & Dissemination, and Convergence CT North America.

Models of nutrition care

Advocate Health Care implemented two models of a nutrition care program for patients at-risk of malnutrition back in 2014, with the results that published last year in Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition​. The data indicated that 30-day readmission rates were decreased by 27% and the average hospital stay by nearly two days. To read NutraIngredients-USA’s coverage of that earlier paper, please click HERE​.

Scientists at Abbott Nutrition then teamed up with scientists at Advocate Health Care to assess the cost-savings associated of this program, using a novel, web-based budget impact model. Compared to the hospitals' previous readmission rates and patients' average length of stay, researchers found that optimizing nutrition care in the four hospitals resulted in roughly $3,800 cost savings per patient treated for malnutrition.

“The results of this study support the idea of elevating the role of nutritional care and related interventions in advancing value-based medicine in population-based management,”​ wrote the scientists, led by Abbott Nutrition’s Suela Sulo, PhD. “The study underscores how proper inpatient nutrition care, although frequently ignored by providers, healthcare administrators, and payers as an important aspect of healthcare delivery, is nevertheless clinically and economically significant at the facility and integrated delivery network levels.”

Dr Sulo added: “As providers, administrators, and payers face added pressures from rising healthcare costs, value-based nutrition interventions should be considered in all hospitals across the US.”

Global interest

A spokesperson for Abbott told NutraIngredients-USA that the company has seen global interest and adaptation of the program. "Multiple hospital systems in the U.S. and outside the U.S. have implemented (or started to implement) similar nutrition programs. The intent was always to design a program that different hospitals and healthcare systems could easily adapt and implement across the globe due to its simplicity and the significant impact it could have on patients’ health while reducing financial burden,"​ said the spokesperson. 

Source: American Health & Drug Benefits
July 2017 Vol 10, No 5
“Budget Impact of a Comprehensive Nutrition-Focused Quality Improvement Program for Malnourished Hospitalized Patients”
Authors: S. Sulo, et al.

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