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Health study to gauge effects of nutrition on readmission rates and costs

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At a time when hospitals are under increasing pressure to improve patient outcomes, Advocate Health Care, one of the nation's leading health systems, is embarking on a major study with Abbott to show how nutrition affects both patients' readmission rates and costs in the hospital, a goal for all U.S. hospitals. 

The program is a collaboration between Advocate Health Care, which owns Eureka Hospital and BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington-Normal, Russell Institute for Research & Innovation at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, the Center for Applied Value Analysis (CAVA), and Abbott. The study will enroll 3,000 adult patients admitted to four Advocate hospitals, making this one of the largest U.S. studies to gather information on the effectiveness of nutrition interventions in real-world settings.

The study will follow patients in real time from admission through 30 days after discharge to determine the impact rapid nutritional intervention has on decreasing 30-day readmission rates. According to the study's design, all patients will receive nutritional screenings upon being admitted. At two of the hospitals, malnourished and those at-risk patients will quickly receive nutritional treatment (an oral nutrition supplement) 24 to 48 hours sooner than standard practice. The patients enrolled at these two hospitals will also receive additional education, a discharge nutrition care plan and post-discharge reminder calls.

The readmission rates at these two "pilot" hospitals will then be compared with the readmission rates among malnourished patients who received the current standard of care at the other two hospitals. 

"Our goal for this study goes far beyond demonstrating what Advocate Health Care can do to improve the quality of care for our patients," saidTom Summerfelt, Ph.D., vice president, research and innovation, Advocate Health Care. "As the largest accountable care organization in the country and one of the largest health systems in the Midwest, we have the broad patient population to provide real-world evidence of the value of nutrition interventions in improving patient outcomes, lowering costs and reducing readmission rates. No matter what the size of the hospital, these findings should have relevance because they demonstrate what is possible and can be implemented quickly."

The impetus for the study is a need to accelerate adoption of effective nutrition practices in hospitals. Today, it is estimated that up to 50 percent of patients are either malnourished or at risk for malnutrition when they enter a hospitaland many will experience nutritional decline during their stay.

Although studies link effective treatment of malnutrition in hospitals with 14 percent fewer overall medical complicationsand a 28 percent drop in avoidable hospital readmissions,hospitals are only now starting to recognize the effect in reducing costs and avoidable hospital readmissions. 

This month Medicare again raised its maximum penalty for hospitals that have too many preventable cases of patient readmissions within 30 days. The findings from this research can help raise awareness that early and quick nutrition interventions improve patient outcomes. 

"A large-scale study of this kind will help show the real health outcomes that nutrition can have for patients in the hospital," saidRobert H. Miller, Ph.D., Divisional Vice President, R&D, Scientific and Medical Affairs, at Abbott Nutrition. "As a healthcare company and leader in science-based nutrition, Abbott is committed to working in partnership with key researchers and institutions to demonstrate the impact nutrition can have in improving the quality of care and reducing health costs in today's demanding hospital environment." 

The study will start enrolling patients this month and findings will be released in 2015.

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