Background: According to a report of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) that looked at hospital admissions in 2013, the care of hospitalized malnourished patients costs twice as much as those without malnourishment due to prolonged hospital stays and increased readmission rates. Furthermore, up to 30 to 50 percent of patients are malnourished upon hospital admission and often do not have their nutritional needs addressed. Nutritional interventions in this patient population are an essential component of inpatient care but there is limited data on the potential benefits of continuing nutritional interventions for this population in the outpatient setting.

Purpose: Our study looks at this at-risk population and investigates if the regular intake of oral nutritional supplementation after hospital discharge can potentially reduce the rate of hospital readmission.

Description: This is an ongoing prospective cohort study on hospitalized patients at a tertiary academic medical center in Atlanta, Georgia identified by the hospital’s nutrition team as having some degree of protein-calorie malnutrition. These patients are prescribed oral nutritional supplements at hospital discharge and are told to continue taking them in the outpatient setting. Follow up phone calls are then made within 2 months and patients are asked if they have been taking their prescribed supplementation and if they were readmitted to the hospital for any reason. We will conduct detailed statistical analyses on our results at the conclusion of our study.

Conclusions: To date, more than 120 patients have been identified by the hospital nutrition team to have some degree of protein-calorie malnutrition and were prescribed oral nutritional supplements at discharge. Preliminary data from follow up phone calls show that although the baseline readmission rate for malnourished patients is higher than the overall readmission rate for all patients at our medical center (26.5% and 13%, respectively), malnourished patients who regularly took oral nutritional supplementation after discharge had a reduced readmission rate compared to malnourished patients who, for various reasons, did not continue supplementation in the outpatient setting (15.6% and 47%, respectively), with a p-value of 0.0383. Therefore, our preliminary data suggest that the continuation of nutritional supplements in the outpatient setting for patients identified as having protein-calorie malnutrition reduces their risk of hospital readmission.