Nutritional screening for improving professional practice for patient outcomes in hospital and primary care settings

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Background: Given the prevalence of under-nutrition and reports of inadequate nutritional management of patients in hospitals and the community, nutritional screening may play a role in reducing the risks of malnutrition. Screening programmes can invoke costs to health systems and patients. It is therefore important to assess the effectiveness of nutritional screening programmes. Objectives: To examine the effectiveness of nutritional screening in improving quality of care (professional practice) and patient outcomes compared with usual care. Search methods: We searched the following databases: CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE, EMBASE and CINAHL up to June 2012 to find relevant studies. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled studies, controlled clinical trials, controlled before-after studies and interrupted time series studies assessing the effectiveness of nutritional screening were eligible for inclusion in the review. We considered process outcomes (for example patient identification, referral to dietitian) and patient outcomes (for example mortality, change in body mass index (BMI)). Participants were adult patients aged 16 years or over. We included studies conducted in different settings, including hospitals, out-patient clinics, primary care or long term care settings. Data collection and analysis: We independently assessed the risk of bias and extracted data from the included studies. Meta-analysis was considered but was not conducted due to the discrepancies between the studies. The studies were heterogeneous in their design, setting, intervention and outcomes. We analysed the data using a narrative synthesis approach. Main results: After conducting initial searches and screening the titles and abstracts of the identified literature, 77 full text papers were retrieved and read. Ultimately three studies were included. Two controlled before-after studies were conducted in hospital settings (one in the UK and one in the Netherlands) and one cluster randomised controlled trial was conducted in a primary care setting (in the USA). The study conducted in primary care reported that physicians were receptive to the screening intervention, but the intervention did not result in any improvements in the malnutrition detection rate or nutritional intervention rate. The two studies conducted in hospitals had important methodological limitations. One study reported that as a result of the intervention, the recording of patients' weight increased in the intervention wards. No significant changes were observed in the referral rates to dietitians or care at meal time. The third study reported weight gains and a reduction in hospital acquired infection rate in the intervention hospital. They found no significant differences in length of stay, pressure sores, malnutrition and treatment costs per patient between the two hospitals. Authors' conclusions: Current evidence is insufficient to support the effectiveness of nutritional screening, although equally there is no evidence of no effect. Therefore, more high quality studies should be conducted to assess the effectiveness of nutritional screening in different settings.




Omidvari, A. H., Vali, Y., Murray, S. M., Wonderling, D., & Rashidian, A. (2013, June 6). Nutritional screening for improving professional practice for patient outcomes in hospital and primary care settings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

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