The Association between Oral Nutritional Supplements and 30-Day Hospital Readmissions of Malnourished Patients at a US Academic Medical Center

Gerard E. Mullin, Linlin Fan, Suela Sulo, Jamie Partridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Malnutrition affects up to 50% of hospitalized patients and contributes to adverse health and economic outcomes, but often remains unrecognized or undertreated. Objective: This study assessed the utilization of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) and its association with the number of 30-day unplanned hospital readmissions of adult malnourished patients in comparison with the readmissions rates of their malnourished counterparts who did not receive ONS. Design: This was a retrospective cohort study. Participants/setting: Of 153,161 inpatient encounters analyzed, a total of 8,713 (5.7%) malnourished adults admitted to an academic medical center hospital in the United States between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017 were included in the analyses. The study utilized records of patients at risk of malnutrition on admission and subsequently diagnosed as malnourished by a registered dietitian following established criteria. Main outcomes measures: ONS utilization rate, hospital length of stay (LOS), and 30-day unplanned hospital readmissions data were obtained from electronic medical records. Statistical analyses performed: The associations between the number of 30-day unplanned hospital readmissions and ONS use were analyzed using mixed-effects negative binomial regression models, with coefficients and 95% CIs reported. Important covariates such as age, sex, and the severity of illness index were included in the regression models. Results: Only 3.1% of malnourished patients received ONS. ONS users had 38.8% fewer readmissions compared with non-ONS counterparts (P=0.017). The reduction in hospital readmissions by ONS was even greater for oncology patients (46.1%, P<0.001). A 50% reduction in time from hospital admission to ONS provision was associated with a 10.2% (P<0.01), 10.2% (P=0.014), and 16.6% (P<0.01) decrease in LOS for overall, oncology, and intensive care unit encounters, respectively. Conclusions: In a large cohort of malnourished adult inpatient encounters, ONS provision rate was low, but when used, ONS intervention was associated with 38.8% fewer 30-day readmissions. This association was more pronounced for oncology encounters. Shorter LOS was observed when the interval between admission and ONS initiation was shorter. Reduced LOS and readmissions rates could result in financial benefits for health care systems prioritizing hospital nutrition care, in addition to informing significant medical benefits for their patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1175
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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