Patient nutrition plays greater role in reducing readmissions

In Boston, hospitals are giving patients healthy food to ease symptoms and prevent readmissions, The Boston Globe reports.

Noting that too much salt can send heart failure patients back to the hospital within 30 days, Steward Health Care is allocating $66,000 to buy a month's worth of food for 55 heart failure patients, delivering three low-sodium meals and two snacks to patients' homes each day at no cost.

And for cancer patients, nausea, appetite loss or financial limitations often cause insufficient food intake, which leads to weight loss, dehydration and eventually hospitalization, the article noted.

To ensure cancer patients are eating enough, each month Newton-Wellesley Hospital delivers four to five meals, each with four to six servings, to qualified patients. "Even if we can prevent one ER visit, that more than pays for three months of meal deliveries," Christina Chiu, a dietician at Newton-Wellesley's cancer center told the Globe.

With malnutrition leading to higher costs, longer length of stay and poor outcomes, these hospitals may be on the right track. They also have help giving patients the nutrition they need, thanks to more than 100,000 dietitians, nurses, hospitalists and other physicians and clinicians launching a new interdisciplinary partnership, the Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition, to improve patient outcomes through nutrition intervention in the hospital.

According to the alliance, hospitals can follow six steps to improve nutrition and patient outcomes. They include creating an institutional culture that values nutrition, redefining clinicians' roles to incorporate nutrition care, diagnosing all malnourished patients and those at risk, implementing and monitoring comprehensive nutrition interventions, communicating a nutrition care plan, and developing a comprehensive discharge nutrition care plan, the alliance announced last week.

To learn more:
- here's the Globe article
- here's the statement