The six clinical characteristics of malnutrition, as defined in 2012 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, are:
A patient who exhibits any two of the six characteristics should be diagnosed with malnutrition, the groups say.
Kelly Tappenden, PhD, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its representative to the Alliance to Advance Patient Nutrition, says the Joint Commission mandates a nutrition screening within 24 hours of admission. Yet the screening is often not completed or the results may not flag timely follow-up before a patient is discharged.
"Additionally, priority is put on addressing high-acuity patient health needs," says Tappenden, who is Professor of Nutrition and Gastrointestinal Physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "As a therapy, nutrition is often overlooked and undervalued in the hospital setting." She adds that one in three patients enter the hospital malnourished.
"The good news is that as the body of science supporting nutrition is advancing, we are seeing hospital administrators and interdisciplinary clinician teams take notice of the benefits of nutrition on patient outcomes," she says.