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Visiting malnourished patients at home to speed recovery, reduce readmissions

Visiting malnourished patients at home to speed recovery, reduce readmissions

As is the case at most hospitals, a sizable portion of patients treated at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., are malnourished.

The 800-bed hospital estimates that about 20% of its patients are malnourished based on results from the approximately 200 patients they’ve screened each month over the past three years.

“We can’t expect our patients to bounce back from a trauma, stroke, fall, surgery or any other medical condition if their nutrition is inadequate. Nutrition is connected to everything,” said Angela Lago, manager of clinical nutrition at New Hanover.

So in January, the hospital launched a program to better treat and manage that population post-discharge. The program involves a dietitian visiting the homes of patients who were diagnosed with malnutrition during their recent inpatient hospital stay. The goal is to identify barriers to healthier eating and ways to address them.

The program addresses a gap New Hanover identified when reviewing its nutrition efforts late last year, Lago said. Although dietitians have been diagnosing patients for malnourishment since 2016 and offering them education during their hospital stay, no follow-up was being done post-discharge.

“We didn’t know what happened to the patient when they returned home,” Lago said. “We wanted someone to go into the home and really solidify the nutritional care plan for the patient.”