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Malnutrition among the issues faced by U.S. hospital patients

On Behalf of | Jan 27, 2022 | Hospital Errors

While U.S. hospitals continue to focus on the health of their patients, they sometimes overlook their nutritional needs. This may or may not come as a surprise, but malnutrition is a widespread problem among hospital patients, making them a higher mortality risk. So says a collaborative study from 2019 by nutritionDay and Abbott.

According to the study, roughly one-third of hospital patients are at risk for malnutrition. Such a fact places these patients at a higher risk for death compared with other patients. Researchers came up with their findings after reviewing information on 10,000 patients in 245 U.S. hospitals from 2009 to 2015.

Higher mortality rate when not eating

Among the study’s findings include:

  • A total of 51% of patients eat only half or less than half of their served meals.
  • Adult patients who failed to eat any of their food were six times more likely to die than patients who ate some food.
  • Of the patients allowed to eat but did not, just 11% received nutritional supplements from hospital staff.
  • Certain categories of patients were more at risk for malnutrition. The list includes almost half of long-term care and infectious disease patients as well as 40% of oncology patients.

What can hospitals do? Granted, many hospital patients may not have an appetite while admitted. But hospitals may offer more desirable and appetizing meals; better assist patients who have impairments and limited mobility; offer alternate food and nutrition choices; consult with registered dieticians regarding patients who have limited appetites; and provide supplements such as nutrition drinks for patients who have problems with solid food.

Patient advocacy

A hospital is a place where patients get better. However, if they are not receiving the right care – and that includes nutrition – they face an uphill battle for survival. This is another reason why patients and their families must advocate to improve nutrition within the confines of a hospital.