A new study from Advocate Health Care and Abbott has revealed that focusing on good nutrition for home health care patients can dramatically improve their condition and keep them out of the hospital.
The researchers found that the benefits associated with improved nutrition among potentially malnourished patients could result in millions of dollars in healthcare cost savings.
Each year, nearly five million Americans rely on home healthcare to recover from an illness or injury. While nutrition may not always be a top priority, it plays a critical role in the recovery process.
“Educating people on the benefits of proper nutritional care can empower them to continue thinking about their nutrition and drinking their supplements,” said study co-author and dietitian Gretchen VanDerBosch. “By maintaining proper nutrition, patients have greater strength, heal faster, have fewer falls and reduced readmissions.”
The investigation, which is the first of its kind, followed more than 1,500 home health patients for 90 days. Patients at risk for malnutrition received a comprehensive care program, including nutritional drinks, to help facilitate their recovery.
Among patients who received nutritional support, the risk of hospitalization was found to be reduced by 24 percent in the first 30 days, 23 percent after 60 days, and by 18 percent after 90 days. In addition, healthcare costs were reduced by more than $2.3 million – or about $1,500 per patient – over the course of 90 days.
Study lead author Katie Riley, R.N., is the post acute chief nursing officer for Advocate Aurora Health.
“Our goal as a home healthcare provider is to help patients get back on their feet as quickly as possible and to keep them out of the hospital,” said Riley. “While the primary reason people come to home health isn’t because they’re malnourished or at risk, we have found that when we do pay attention to their nutrition care, it helps promote their strength and prevents them from going back to the hospital, which ultimately reduces healthcare costs.’”
It is estimated that 1 in 3 home health patients are at risk of malnutrition. This can not only prevent their condition from improving, but can also lead to further health issues.
“It’s clear that nutrition can be a simple, cost-effective tool to improve patient outcomes,” said study co-author Dr. Suela Sulo. “Healthcare systems are driven to improve patient care while reducing costs. Our research shows that prioritizing nutrition across different settings of care – or from hospital to home – can significantly cut costs while improving patients’ health.”