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Malnutrition, Long Neglected, Needs Doctors' Attention

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, June 6, 2013

And while there often is the talk of forming multidisciplinary teams to improve healthcare, communication is lacking with dietitians to improve nutrition, the report adds.

Parkhurst says that hospitals and physicians can work together to improve efforts to dramatically improve nutritional care. The alliance's Nutrition Care Model offers guidelines in which physicians and hospitalists should collaborate with dietitians and nurses to better treat malnourished patients and those at risk for malnutrition.  

Physicians need to play a greater role in this important development by redefining clinicians' roles to include nutrition care, and recognize and diagnose all malnourished patients and those at risk, Parkhurst says.

Although nurses are on the front line of care, there is especially a need for physician champions to improve nutritional care by collaboration across disciplines, Parkhurst says.

"I know dietitians who are very well trained and know what needs to be done, but they don't have a voice within their hospital. Just having a physician champion can make a significant stride in improvements, by championing nutrition in their hospital and partnering with a dietitian."

The Joint Commission has recommended nutrition screening within 24 hours of a patient's admission to an acute-care hospital, and frequent intervals throughout hospitalization.

Although it appears that hospitals are conducting the screening, proper follow-up is lacking, Parkhurst says.

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