A patient advocate provides financial counseling, which can increase patient collections.

Increase Patient Collections Through Patient Financial Education

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Increase Patient Collections Through Patient Financial Education

Posted on Monday, February 3, 2020

Addressing patient financial education needs can help you increase patient collections. When patients understand their medical bills, health insurance, and patient responsibility, they are much more likely to make their payments.

When patients are confused about what they owe and why, they often delay payments or don’t make them at all. Too many patients experience health insurance confusion and anger and uncertainty concerning medical bills and healthcare costs.

The following solutions by HealthWare Systems can help you improve patients’ understanding of their financial responsibility and increase patient collections:


ActiveASSIST

ActiveASSIST is our financial assistance and self-pay management solution. ActiveASSIST is a patient advocacy tool that aids staff in providing compassionate and supportive financial counseling to patients.

A patient advocate provides financial counseling, which can increase patient collections.

Increase patient collections by providing patient financial education.

ActiveASSIST identifies alternative funding sources (e.g. government programs, charitable initiatives) for patients. Many patients are unaware of the various financial assistance options available, or that they may qualify. Our patient-first technology finds potential matches for them, manages the application process, and monitors documentation requirements, deadlines, and follow-up tasks.

By educating patients about their financial assistance eligibility and helping them secure funding, ActiveASSIST can leave patients with a smaller, more manageable portion of their bill to pay (or their costs may be completely covered by financial assistance).


Facilitator

As our all-in-one revenue cycle platform, Facilitator can streamline your financial assistance workflow as well.

Additionally, Facilitator generates patient estimates and determines patients’ potential out-of-pocket costs. Patients want price transparency. If patients know what costs to expect up front, they will feel better informed. They are less inclined to be upset when they receive their bill and more apt to pay it.

With Facilitator, you can also review prior balances across multiple sites, collect payments, or set up payment plans to help patients understand and resolve their financial responsibility.


February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month. This month we are reminded of the importance of empowering and educating patients so that they can make wise health care decisions, including wise financial decisions related to their health.

This is an opportune time to implement revenue cycle solutions that will improve patient financial education and, as a result, increase patient collections.


By Stephanie Salmich

You can improve patient engagement in older patients, like this doctor talking with his patient about her health.

Improve Patient Engagement in Older Patients

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Improve Patient Engagement in Older Patients

Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2019

You can improve patient engagement in older patients, like this doctor talking with his patient about her health.

Improve patient engagement in older patients by helping them view aging in a positive way.

You can improve patient engagement in older patients by helping them view aging in a positive way.  This coming month, “September is Healthy Aging® Month,” offers a special opportunity to do just that!

Here are a few ways you can improve patient engagement in older patients:

Celebrate aging –September is Healthy Aging® Month” is meant to draw attention to the positive aspects of aging and to assure people that it’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes.  Older patients should be encouraged to take control of their health at any age.

You may also wish to celebrate grandparents this next month, as Grandparents Day falls in September as well.  Remind older patients of the need to maintain their health so that they can continue to benefit their grandchildren’s lives for many years to come!  And make sure they know that this special relationship can benefit their own health, too. (Check out our previous blog on additional monthly health observances.)

Emphasize prevention, rather than reaction – Some of the most prevalent health issues affecting older patients, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, malnutrition, and injuries from falls, are potentially preventable.  Yet, per the CDC, only 7% of older adults obtain all their recommended preventive health services.

Our blogs on increasing preventive screenings for men, improving male patient engagement, and increasing mammogram appointments can provide you with some excellent ideas for promoting preventive health services at your facility.

Improve family engagement – Family engagement can be especially important for older patients who may have family caregivers.  Family caregivers play a significant role in older patients’ safety and comfort.  Plus, patient and family satisfaction are related.

Address the social determinants of health – Some of the social determinants of health may affect older patients in different ways than younger patients.  For example, patient transportation needspatient housing needs, and dietary needs often change as patients age.

Provide technology information – A 2018 AARP survey found that 76% of U.S. adults age 50-plus want to stay in their own homes as they age.  Many older patients also want and believe they need access to health technology in order to manage their own healthcare.  Educate patients and their families about technology that can help them achieve these goals and keep them safe.

Implement the 4M Framework – The Age-Friendly Health Systems initiative encourages healthcare facilities to embrace the 4M’s when caring for older patients:

  • What Matters – Aligning care with the patient and family’s health goals.
  • Medication – Choosing age-friendly medications that don’t hinder the other three “M’s” of the framework.
  • Mentation – Addressing dementia, depression, and delirium.
  • Mobility – Ensuring patients move safely every day.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, there were 46 million Americans (15% of the population) aged 65 and older in 2016 and that number is expected to more than double by 2060, to over 98 million (24% of the population).

As the American Hospital Association pointed out in its publication “Creating Age-Friendly Health Systems,” improving care for older patients now can put your hospital “ahead of the curve” as the healthcare market shifts to accommodate our aging population.

September is the perfect time for exploring new policies that will improve patient engagement in older patients and ensure they have the best possible care at your facility all year round.


By Stephanie Salmich

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

4 Ways to Build a Culture of Patient Advocacy at Your Facility

Posted on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How can a healthcare facility practice patient advocacy?  Of course, patient advocates offer wonderful support to patients. But providers can create a larger culture of patient advocacy at their facility as well by tackling a few key areas.

Here are 4 ways hospitals can support their patients and build a culture of patient advocacy:


1.) Address The Social Determinants of Health

Creating a culture of patient advocacy: A healthcare employee holds a patient’s hand.

Create a culture of patient advocacy with Patient-First Technology like ActiveASSIST.

The American College of Physicians states that addressing the social determinants of health “is a critical step forward in solidifying physicians’ roles as advocates for patients.”  You can supply your physicians with screening tools and training to help them identify patients’ social needs and how these may be affecting their health.

Additionally, your organization can do its part in addressing the social determinants of health in your community.  For example, you may be able to reduce patient malnutrition, ease patient transportation needs, or assist with patient housing needs.

Supporting your patients’ social needs is an incredible form of patient advocacy.  It can also lead to better health outcomes and lower healthcare costs for your facility.

2.) Offer Financial Assistance Screening

A lot of patients don’t realize that financial assistance may be available to them. Many hospitals have changed their financial assistance policies to include not only the uninsured, but the underinsured as well.

Notifying patients of which programs they could qualify for demonstrates a great deal of patient advocacy.  What really goes above and beyond, though, is facilitating the entire financial assistance process on behalf of your patients!

Technology like HealthWare SystemsActiveASSIST and Facilitator can both identify programs applicable to specific patients AND manage the financial assistance workflow.

By exhausting all other payment options first, you also ensure the provider is payer of last resort.

3.)  Alleviate Stressors Surrounding Costs and Payment

Larger-than-expected or difficult-to-decipher medical bills, as well as health insurance confusion, are major sources of frustration for patients.  They can also result in unpaid medical bills and medical debt, or cause patients to forgo some health services altogether.

Reducing patient uncertainty concerning the financial aspects of their care would help you foster a culture of patient advocacy.  Ensuring patients are financially cleared before arrival, generating estimates and identifying potential out-of-pocket costs, and setting up payment plans are all ways you can assist patients in this area.

4.) Provide Patient Education

February is National Wise Health Care Consumer Month!

What a perfect time to share educational materials and classes related to health insurance and financial assistance with your patients.  Perhaps the best way to advocate for your patients is to help them develop the skills they need to advocate for themselves!


Each of these areas provides you with excellent opportunities for patient advocacy.  Plus, there is a bonus: supporting any of these endeavors can ultimately improve your bottom line as well.

Practicing patient advocacy will help you support your patients, improve the patient experience, and offers financial benefits for all parties involved.  Developing a culture of patient advocacy can truly pay dividends.


By Stephanie Salmich

This doctor talking to his patient is taking proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!

Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Increasing Preventive Screenings for Men at Your Facility

Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2018

Increasing preventive screenings for men at your facility can save patients’ lives.  “Movember” is the perfect time to start working toward this goal.


Consider these ideas for increasing preventive screenings for men at your facility:


Educate your patients.  Patients may be unclear on the correct or most-up-to-date recommendations for preventive screenings and may not realize when it is time for them to start discussing these topics with their doctor.  Make sure your clinicians initiate the conversation when patients reach the proper age to begin making decisions about testing in case patients forget.

Improve patient engagement with preventive health by utilizing social media in healthcare.  Share preventive health tips, educational materials, and powerful statistics demonstrating the importance of early detection of male health issues.

(Check out our previous blog for more information on male patient engagement.)

Ensure patients are aware that most health plans are required to cover the cost of many preventive screenings (when performed by an in-network provider).  Highlight the fact that most plans cannot charge a copayment or coinsurance for these services even if the patient has not met his yearly deductible yet.  Instruct patients to check with their insurance company.  Additionally, help patients find out if they qualify for financial assistance and facilitate the application process for them.

Use their time in the waiting room as an opportunity to reach your patients.  For example, print educational materials on the back of wayfinding maps.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, feature male preventive health facts periodically throughout your rotation of announcements.  Or, incorporate moustaches into the backdrop of your screen to draw more attention to Movember and male health issues.

(Read here how one acute care facility used ActiveTRACK to promote customizable messages to patients in their waiting area.)

Accommodate your patients.  Allow for evening and weekend appointments.  Besides providing interpreters and educational materials in various languages, train staff to understand how culture affects health and healthcare decisions.  Don’t let inconvenience or cultural barriers stand in the way of accessing preventive health care.

Talk to female patients about preventive screenings for men.  Women make approximately 80% of household healthcare decisions.  Since women can have such a large impact on male health, clinicians may want to bring up the topic when meeting with female patients.  This could trigger a reminder for female patients to schedule appointments for their loved ones, or simply provide them with pertinent preventive health information to pass on to the men in their lives.

Start the Movember Healthcare Challenge at your facility.  Compete against others in your industry to raise money to improve male health through the Movember Foundation.  Raise awareness by growing a (or wearing a fake) moustache!  Use the hashtag #Movember when you share the pictures on social media.

(You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.)

Most of the above ideas can be implemented all year long!  Increasing preventive screenings for men is an important goal to strive toward and November is a great time to start.

This doctor talking to his patient is taking proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!

Take proactive steps toward increasing preventive screenings for men!


By Stephanie Salmich

Increasing mammogram appointments… a woman holds a sign reading “Have YOU scheduled your annual MAMMOGRAM?”

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Ideas for Increasing Mammogram Appointments

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2018

Increasing mammogram appointments… a woman holds a sign reading “Have YOU scheduled your annual MAMMOGRAM?”

Take proactive steps toward increasing mammogram appointments!

October is the perfect time to focus on increasing mammogram appointments.  During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, prioritize preventive care using the suggestions below.


Consider these ideas for increasing mammogram appointments at your facility:


Educate your patients on breast cancer prevention.  Patients may be unclear on the correct or most-up-to-date recommendations for mammography screening or may have heard conflicting instructions from different organizations.  Make sure your clinicians clarify.

“Current guidelines from the American College of Radiology and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women receive annual mammograms starting at age 40 — even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer.”

Ensure patients are aware that most health plans are required to cover the cost of a breast cancer mammography screening for women over 40 every 1 to 2 years (when performed by an in-network provider).  Highlight the fact that most plans also cannot charge a copayment or coinsurance for this service even if the patient has not met her yearly deductible yet.  Some states even require insurers to cover 3D mammograms.  Instruct patients to check with their insurance company.  Additionally, help patients find out if they qualify for financial assistance and facilitate the application process for them.

Send mammogram reminders through texts, emails, letters, postcards, and/or phone calls. A study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found mammogram reminders to be very effective in increasing mammogram appointments, especially when sent to patients whose mammogram appointments were coming due.

When patients check in, instruct registrars to ask them if they’ve scheduled their annual mammogram exam yet; and if not, have registrars try to schedule one with them.  Additionally, registrars should confirm they have the correct mailing address and phone number for the patient in the system used to send mammogram reminders.

Use their time in the waiting room as an opportunity to reach your patients.  For example, print mammogram reminders on the back of wayfinding maps.  If you use a lobby display screen or patient notification board, include mammogram reminders and breast cancer prevention facts that appear periodically throughout your rotation of announcements.  Or, use a mammogram reminder as the full-time backdrop of your screen.

(Read here how one acute care facility used ActiveTRACK to promote customizable messages, including encouragement of mammogram appointments during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to patients in their waiting area.)

Improve patient engagement with preventive health by utilizing social media in healthcare.  Share mammogram reminders, educational materials, and powerful statistics demonstrating the importance of early detection.  For instance, according to the American College of Radiology, “mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40% since 1990” and “skipping a mammogram every other year would miss up to 30% of cancers.”

Accommodate your patients. Allow for evening and weekend mammogram appointments.  Besides providing interpreters and educational materials in various languages, train staff to understand how culture affects health and healthcare decisions in order to reach patients of all backgrounds.  Don’t let inconvenience or cultural barriers stand in the way of accessing preventive care.

Emphasize your goal of increasing mammogram appointments to your staff. Stratis Health suggests providing your clinicians and registrars with “missed opportunity” reports, which would demonstrate the number of patients who visited throughout the month who were due/overdue for their mammogram appointments but did not get scheduled.


October is the opportune time to launch a breast cancer awareness campaign!  Of course, the suggestions above are best used throughout the entire year to help you in your goal of increasing mammogram appointments and improving your rates of early detection to save lives.


By Stephanie Salmich

Male patient engagement: A doctor and male patient shake hands.

Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Male Patient Engagement: Improving Men’s Health Outcomes

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Improving male patient engagement is a struggle for many providers who find that men are much less likely than women to seek care, whether it be for a specific health concern, preventive healthcare, or standard annual exam.

Consider the following alarming statistics concerning men’s health outcomes:

Men’s Health Network provides these explanations for “The Silent Health Crisis” men are experiencing:

  • “A higher percentage of men have no healthcare coverage.
  • Men make ½ as many physician visits for prevention.
  • Men are employed in the most dangerous occupations, such as mining, fire fighting, construction, and fishing.
  • Society discourages healthy behaviors in men and boys.
  • Research on male-specific diseases is under funded.
  • Men may have less healthy lifestyles including risk-taking at younger ages.”

Improving Male Patient Engagement

Male patient engagement: A doctor and male patient shake hands.

Improving male patient engagement is critical to improving men’s health outcomes. Start your commitment today.


June is Men’s Health Month.  Men’s Health Month presents an opportunity for healthcare facilities to address the epidemic of poor male patient engagement.  Men’s Health Network offers many ideas for promoting Men’s Health Month and improving male patient engagement and men’s health outcomes, including: 

In addition, hospitals should educate male patients about their payment options.  Costs may deter male patients from seeing a doctor, and they may not realize that they could be eligible for free or low-cost screenings through their insurance carrier, Medicare, or financial assistance programs.

Healthcare facilities should also make the issues of improving male patient engagement and men’s health outcomes top priorities all year long.  A great example for providers is the work of Dr. Paul Turek (an international leader in men’s health who boasts a 90+% patient engagement rate).  Dr. Turek’s blog lists his suggestions and rules for improving male patient engagement.

Men’s health outcomes affect not only the men and boys in all our lives, but also their families and the women who love them.  Through improving male patient engagement providers can benefit families and their community by improving men’s health outcomes, all while boosting revenue (in the form of more appointments kept by, and more preventive screening tests administered to, male patients).

You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.


By Stephanie Salmich

Support Your Physicians: An administrator and doctor shake hands.

Support Your Physicians by Asking These 3 Questions

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Support Your Physicians by Asking These 3 Questions

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2018

National Doctors’ Day (March 30th) provides a great opportunity to reevaluate the steps your facility is taking to support your physicians who work so hard for you and your patients.

Support Your Physicians: An administrator and doctor shake hands.

Happy National Doctors’ Day!

Here are a few questions to consider when assessing how well you support your physicians:

 

Are You Fueling Your Physicians’ Sense of Purpose?

One of the best ways you can support your physicians is by encouraging their passion, whether it be for medicine, for helping patients and their families, for serving the community, or any other meaningful reason they have for doing the work they do.

Fostering a sense of meaning in work can improve employee engagement, reduce physician burnout, and lower employee turnover.  According to Forbes contributor David K. Williams, the secret to helping employees find meaning in work is communication:

“If leaders focus on communicating the company’s mission, and the employee’s place in the success of that mission, they can have a significant impact on the overall level of fulfillment of their employees.”

He suggests that leaders “frequently discuss the meaning of the organization” and recognize employees for their personal contribution to that meaning.

 

Are You Making Your Physicians’ Jobs Easier or More Difficult?

Physicians are extremely busy.  Is the technology you provide them helping or hindering their time management?

Time-consuming and cumbersome administrative tasks and paperwork can overwhelm physicians and distract them from the reason they became doctors in the first place:  to help patients.

Alleviate physician stress by implementing solutions that:

1. Eliminate lost physician orders

2. Facilitate the sending, receiving, finding, and integrating of critical data to achieve interoperability

3. Prevent reimbursement issues

4. Provide real-time communication across departments

Are You Investing in Your Physicians?

Do you provide opportunities for your valuable physicians to learn and grow in the vital roles they fill for your organization?  Millennial healthcare employees may especially appreciate opportunities for growth and development, continued training, and education at work.  You can also support your physicians by offering or funding mindfulness training, empathy training, and emotional support programs to help prevent or reduce physician burnout.

Again, National Doctors’ Day is TODAY (March 30th)!  Now is the perfect time to rejuvenate your commitment to support your physicians with these suggestions.  And remember to celebrate the physicians who have made a difference for you and your family by personally thanking them and honoring them each March 30th for the hard work they do all year long.


You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.


By Stephanie Salmich

Joyce Bryant, our Patient Access Week interviewee.

Ideas for Celebrating Patient Access Week: An Interview with Joyce Bryant

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Ideas for Celebrating Patient Access Week: An Interview with Joyce Bryant

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Joyce Bryant, our Patient Access Week interviewee.

Joyce Bryant provides Patient Access Week ideas.

Patient Access Week is here!

Many managers may be looking for ways to recognize their hard-working patient access employees.

HealthWare Systems recently spoke with Joyce Bryant, who served over 8 years managing a centralized high volume call center consisting of 50+ Patient Access Specialists for four hospitals and five outpatient facilities as a Regional Director of PreAccess.

Joyce explained that it can be difficult to come up with activities for 60+ people, especially with budget obligations.  But she and her managers were able to find creative ways to celebrate their patient access employees during Patient Access Week, and each was a big hit!

Check out her ideas for celebrating Patient Access Week!

 

Work Station Bingo

“You can’t shut down your call center to play games and do get-togethers.  So, I came up with the idea of playing Bingo at their desk.  I had a manager go buy a Bingo game (we reused it every year).  We made copies of the Bingo Cards and handed them out to the staff.  The manager would then pull a Bingo number and email the number out in the subject line of the email.  The email pops up on everyone’s screen, with the number in the subject line, and they mark their sheet.  It’s not disruptive to patient scheduling and the verifiers can play while they’re on hold with insurance companies.  If they are busy, the numbers are all in their email and they can easily catch up.  The first one to email back ‘Bingo!’ wins.  As far as prizes, we planted succulents in dollar store pots, gave out movie theater-sized boxes of candy, or water bottles or mugs filled with M&M’s.”

Nacho Cart

“I went to Gordon’s Foods and bought a large can of nacho cheese, paper holders and several bags of taco chips.  It cost me around 16 dollars for 60 people.  What makes it special is, I put the slow cooker with the cheese in a cart and walked around the department serving it to my staff.  It gave me the opportunity to thank each staff member and let them know how much I appreciate the work they do for our patients.”

Pancake Day

“I brought in pancake mix, syrup, oranges and bananas.  It cost 25 to 30 dollars for 60 people.  I put on my apron and started serving up pancakes.  I started with the early shift and ended with the 10:30 (late shift).  Again, it’s not just the food they appreciated.  It’s the fact that we managers were thanking everyone as they walked in.  It was a great way to connect.”

Cupcakes

“I’m a baker and like to make Cupcake Wars types of cupcakes.  Not everyone’s a baker, but you can tap into the skills of your managers as well.”

Employee of the Month Board

“Appreciation doesn’t need to be just for a week.  Each team had a monthly employee appreciation bulletin board (Employee of the Month).  The team members post notes of appreciation to their teammates when they find that they’re going above and beyond.  On the first of the month, the manager takes down the notes and puts them in a hat and pulls out one.  She then sends an email to the team with that employee’s name and what they did to be nominated for “Employee of the Month.”  That employee got a small prize (a plant, $10 gift card to the cafeteria, etc.).”

On top of the ideas Joyce provided, you can find other fun activities on NAHAM’s website.  If you’re looking for more prize options, visit NAHAM’s online store featuring promotional items for Patient Access Week.  And don’t forget to share your activities and recognize your patient access employees on social media!


In addition to celebrating Patient Access Week, you can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of the year’s health observances and recognition days here.


By Stephanie Salmich

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Medical Errors Statistics Reveal the Need to Improve Patient Safety

Posted on Monday, March 12, 2018

In 2018, it can be easy to take patient safety for granted; however, studies show that we have a long way to go to truly improve patient safety:

According to a nationwide survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, 21% of patients report experience with medical errors.  The survey also found that these medical errors “often have lasting impact on the patient’s physical health, emotional health, financial well-being, or family relationships.”

With approximately 251,454 deaths in the U.S. per year due to medical errors, Johns Hopkins University researchers estimate that this is the third leading cause of death in the country.  (Research published in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates the number of premature deaths due to medical errors could be even higher – over 400,000 per year.)

Patient safety is of the utmost importance to any healthcare system, so how can these numbers be so high?

As the PatientSafe Network explains, there are many obstacles that thwart or diminish efforts to improve patient safety.  These include issues regarding cognitive dissonance, blame/pointing fingers, complexity, cost, and many more.  See their full list of (18!) obstacles here.

Improve Patient Safety

Improve patient safety for patients like the family and newborn pictured here.

Make the commitment to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety during National Patient Safety Awareness Week.

This week is National Patient Safety Awareness Week, an initiative of The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) “designed to mark a dedicated time and a platform to increase awareness about patient safety among health professionals and the public,” according to their website.  There will be two main issues highlighted this year – safety culture and patient engagement.

National Patient Safety Awareness Week offers an opportunity for both healthcare professionals and healthcare consumers to come together to improve patient safety.  IHI and NPSF offer plenty of ideas for getting involved and a day-by-day guide to activities for the week, and invite you to join the conversation on social media (use the hashtag #PSAW in your posts).

You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, and a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here.

In order to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors and patient safety risks, it will take the work of all stakeholders (administrators, clinicians, staff, patients, family members, etc.) to raise awareness of this critical issue.  It will also take their commitment to making the changes necessary for lowering risks to patient safety.


By Stephanie Salmich

A doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

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Taking Steps to Reduce Patient Malnutrition is Critical to Health Outcomes

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When we look at the statistics, the importance of taking steps to reduce patient malnutrition becomes clear.  A study of 818 inpatients published in Clinical Nutrition found that up to one third were malnourished, resulting in “poor hospitalization outcomes” such as increased mortality rates and higher costs of care.

Indeed, according to an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

“Malnutrition is associated with many adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of pressure ulcers and impaired wound healing, immune suppression and increased infection rate, muscle wasting and functional loss increasing the risk of falls, longer length of hospital stay, higher readmission rates, higher treatment costs, and increased mortality.”

The authors of the article point out that malnutrition is often overlooked, despite its dire consequences and the startling number of patients who suffer from it.  Per research cited in the article, it is estimated that in developed countries at least one third of patients are malnourished to some degree at the point of admission; during their hospital stay, the nutrition of about two thirds of these patients will worsen if untreated; and about one third of patients who are not malnourished when admitted may become malnourished during their stay.

Fortunately, hospitals can prevent many of the negative effects of malnutrition.  The authors of the article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggest healthcare facilities apply the following six principles to nutrition care in order to reduce patient malnutrition:

Reduce Patient Malnutrition


1 – “Create an institutional culture where all stakeholders value nutrition” – Administrators and all healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, etc.) must collaborate.

2 – “Redefine clinicians’ roles to include nutrition care” – Provide clinicians with nutrition training and continuing education.

3 – “Recognize and diagnose all malnourished patients and those at risk” – Every hospitalized patient should be screened according to a standardized procedure.

4 – “Rapidly implement comprehensive nutrition interventions and continued monitoring” – Immediate nutrition interventions must be a high priority; consumption must be monitored and adjusted as necessary.

5 – “Communicate nutrition care plans” – Ensure patients’ nutrition care plans are updated in the EHR and all healthcare professionals are informed.

6 – “Develop a comprehensive discharge nutrition care and education plan” – Communicate the nutrition care plan to the patient and caregivers, provide them with nutrition education, and follow up to check adherence to the plan.


A doctor holds a tablet showing healthy food images representing the blog topic – reduce patient malnutrition.

Reduce patient malnutrition to improve health outcomes.

A piece featured on the Hospitals & Health Networks website proposes that “before implementing interventions, a hospital must first visualize food as medicine to realize the impact that food can make in the community.”  This article provides many ideas for hospitals looking to serve their communities and reduce patient malnutrition (such as establishing on-site gardens, healthy cooking classes, food pantries, and food pharmacies).

March is National Nutrition Month®, an education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  This is the perfect time to start implementing the above principles at your facility and take steps to reduce patient malnutrition.  You can also promote healthy eating habits for your employees and patients using the tools the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides here.

Don’t forget to recognize the RDNs who serve and advance the health of your community by celebrating Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day (the second Wednesday in March) as well!


You can also find ideas for promoting other health observances throughout the year here, a detailed calendar of this year’s health observances and recognition days here, and information on the other social determinants of health here.


By Stephanie Salmich