Reduced Readmissions—In a Bottle?

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , November 1, 2013

Given the penalties that are accruing for hospitals and health systems for 30-day readmissions, those results should get your attention. But if that's not enough, the study also found that the use of oral nutritional supplements delivered improvements in patient length of stay and hospital costs. Oral nutritional supplements were even more impactful and statistically significant on length of stay and cost of care when looking at all Medicare patients aged 65 and older with any primary diagnosis:

  • 16%, or 1.65 days, reduction in length of stay
  • 15.8%, or $3,079, in cost savings per episode

The study looked at 11 years of hospital data (2000–2010) on hospitalized Medicare patients aged 65 and over with any diagnosis, as well as breakouts for patients with AMI, CHF, and pneumonia.

These results are impressive enough, and the cost of implementing an oral nutrition program so minimal compared to other interventions that aim to reduce readmissions, that I'm amazed more CEOs don't demand that it be included in their hospital stay care protocols—not only for Medicare patients but for all inpatients. According to Snider, only 1.6% of patients in the study were provided oral nutritional supplements during and after their stay. Given the findings, which admittedly cover a long time period during which less was known about this issue, I would expect that percentage to rise dramatically in coming years. So be cynical based on the study's funding at your peril.

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