Prevalence and Documentation of Malnutrition in Hospitals

Objectives: To determine the prevalence of malnutrition and whether the malnourished participants were being identified and documented as malnourished. To evaluate the impact of poor documentation on financial reimbursement to the hospital. Subjects: Three hundred and twenty-four inpatients from a total of 690 randomly selected patients consented to participate in the study. Design and setting: Subjective Global Assessment (SGA) was used to assess the nutritional status of inpatients.There were 1906 patients were admitted over a three-month period. Of these, 1860 were eligible and 690 were randomly selected from computer generated ward lists. The referral rate for nutrition intervention of malnourished participants was determined by viewing the patient medical records retrospectively. The Australian National Diagnostic Related Group (AN-DRG) of the malnourished subjects, not documented in the medical record as malnourished, were redetermined with the addition of the malnutrition code.

The potential shortfall in financial reimbursement to the hospital was calculated by subtracting the average costing based on original AN-DRGs from the average costing based on the revised AN-DRGs. Main outcome measures: Prevalence of malnutrition, levels of malnourished patients identified and documented, revenue losses under case payment system. Statistical analyses: Logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate group differences in sex across SGA categories and to investigate predictors of referral versus non referral.Analysis of variance was used to evaluate group differences in age across SGA categories. Results: One hundred and twenty-seven (42.

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3%) of the 324 subjects were malnourished. Only one of 137 malnourished patients was documented as malnourished in the medical records and only 21 (15.3%) were referred for nutrition intervention. The inclusion of the malnutrition code to the AN-DRG of the identified malnourished patients highlighted a shortfall of $125 311 in reimbursements to the hospital.Conclusions: The degree of malnutrition in this hospital is similar to that found internationally. Malnourished patients are not being identified using the current referral method.

Failure to flag malnourished patients requiring nutrition intervention potentially impacts on length of stay, hospital costs and patient outcomes and ultimately results in a shortfall for case payment funded institutions.