By Elizabeth Horton, RDN, HHS Corporate Dietitian
Statistics show that at the time of admission, 20 to 50 percent of all patients are at risk for malnourishment or are malnourished, and up to 31 percent of these malnourished patients experience nutritional decline during their hospital stay. This evidence is based on research provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and attributes to the fact that insufficient monitoring of malnutrition can lead to high readmission rates, resulting in the depletion of supplemental funding. It is imperative that registered dietitians help to prevent readmissions by facilitating patient health and recovery plans and adequately assessing the nutritional needs of high-acuity, high-risk patients.
HHS registered dietitians have begun to address this issue by developing systematic plans for ongoing nutritional care through:
Evaluating and assessing nutritional deficiencies
HHS’ registered dietitians screen patients within 48 hours of admission to determine their level of nutritional risk. Following the screening, those patients at risk for malnutrition are assessed and provided with necessary dietary interventions as soon as possible. The initial process includes a thorough assessment of the patient’s current and pre-existing medical conditions, nutritional energy needs, dietary restrictions, and cultural preferences. This allows dietitians to compile vital information for immediate review with the clinical and culinary teams.
Collaborating interdepartmentally to tailor nutritional plans
As part of the nutrition assessment, our registered dietitians implement interventions and goals to meet patient’s nutritional needs while in the hospital. Working in collaboration with the clinical team, a care plan is developed to ensure that nutrition interventions work in conjunction with the medical intervention to positively impact recovery. Once the assessment is complete and the physician has been consulted, the patient receives their tailored nutrition plan, designed to help manage their medical condition throughout their hospital stay and promote a healthy lifestyle after discharge.
Providing continuing education and advice to prevent readmission
Education is an essential component to ensure compliance and prevent readmission. Along with a tailored nutrition plan, HHS’ registered dietitians counsel patients and provide educational materials to help patients understand the course of action needed to maintain nutritional balance. Additionally, our registered dietitians develop unique short-term and long-term goals for each patient, provide initial follow-up to address questions and concerns, and arrange outpatient programs to help patients on their journey.
Proper nutrition is essential for living well throughout life. When individuals end up in the hospital because of underlying conditions, our registered dietitians take the lead in providing crucial nutritional care to help expedite the healing process and prevent readmission. Their strong educational background coupled with their interdepartmental communication with clinical teams ensure that patients are receiving the proper nutritional guidance, which ultimately prevents and lowers readmission rates.
To learn more about HHS' culinary services and how our registered dietitians are helping lower readmission rates:
Elizabeth Horton joined HHS in September 2017 as the Corporate Dietitian for HHS Culinary. As an integral part of the culinary and nutrition team, Horton promotes best practices for clinical dietitians by designing programs that bring recognition to the role of the dietitian, enhance clinical competency, and ensure regulatory compliance. During Horton’s 35-year career as a Registered Dietitian, she has gained valuable experience from a variety of roles in acute and long-term care facilities. Prior to joining HHS, Horton spent eight years as a corporate management consultant, leading a regional team of clinical dietitians and nutrition managers to promote corporate and regulatory compliance. Horton earned a Bachelor of Science in Medical Dietetics from Brigham Young University.