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Malnutrition, Long Neglected, Needs Doctors' Attention

   June 06, 2013

In its report, the alliance states that while screening is important to identify at-risk patients, it is often seen as a "superficial observation wherein boxes are checked or unchecked."

"Some hospitals have been more proactive in doing some sort of screening than others," she says. "After that it has become extremely variable from hospital to hospital. In a complex hospital environment, there is so much going on, with patients moving through a system."

While nurses and doctors may be outlining nutritional needs for patients, such as calorie counting, "so many notes are left in 24 hours on (each) patient's chart, the recommendations may get buried in pages of notes, and no one would see them, and the proper intervention doesn't happen," Parkhurst says.

Physicians should not only be involved in nutritional care in hospitals, but also when patients leave, ostensibly to prevent readmissions, Parkhurst says. There should be continued monitoring of patients, what vitamins they may need, or calorie counts or what kind of diet," she says. "It's very important that hospital summaries of a nutrition plan go to the primary care doctor and it's taken care of when patients are discharged from hospitals."

Generally, Parkhurst asserts, improving patient nutrition is another simple healthcare tool that can have a huge impact: on care and economic resources.

As the alliance notes: "Nutrition intervention is a low-risk, cost-effective strategy to help improve quality of hospital care and it's time to join forces to put better nutrition care plans in place."

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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