Innovation remains a hallmark of the healthcare industry. Researchers continue to look for new ways to treat chronic conditions and address new threats that are emerging. However, they are not alone. Healthcare workers are on the front lines, so their knowledge is beneficial in that it allows them to come up with creative solutions for existing issues. This innovation is present at every level of healthcare, including in clinical nutrition services. Why is nutrition so important to improving health outcomes?
Health and Development
Nutrition plays a key role in a person’s overall health and development. A person who eats a healthy diet is less at risk of non-communicable diseases and they typically live longer. When a child is healthy, they learn better, and women are less at risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, individuals who have access to healthy foods are more productive. Morrison Healthcare (morrisonhealthcare.com) recognizes this and is taking steps to provide individuals in hospitals with healthy meals.
A person must balance energy intake and energy expenditure. When planning meals, they need to keep total fat to 30 percent of their total caloric intake, with less than 10 percent of this coming from saturated and trans-fats. Free sugars should also be less than ten percent of their energy intake, although health experts recommend getting this number down to less than five percent of the total caloric intake.
Furthermore, sodium intake should be restricted to five grams per day or less. This minimizes a person’s risk of hypertension while reducing their risk of stroke and heart disease. This needs to be considered when planning meals for inpatients.
Nutrition Support Therapy
Many healthcare providers now make use of nutrition support therapy to help patients achieve better outcomes. This may include oral nutritional supplements, enteral nutrition, and parental nutrition therapies. The results of these therapies are impressive.
Oral nutritional supplements help to reduce hospitalizations by 16.5 percent, as they increase nutrient intake. This helps individuals in hospitals gain and maintain weight, particularly older Americans at higher risk of malnutrition. In fact, providing oral nutritional supplements to patients in hospitals helps to bring costs down by 12.2 percent on average.
These cost savings are the result of better outcomes and reduced mortality. Patients experience fewer complications when they are provided this nutritional support, and they spend less time in the hospital. Statistics show providing oral nutritional supplements actually helps decrease the mortality rate by 24 percent. However, enteral nutrition is also of great benefit.
When hospitals provide critically ill patients with enteral nutrition, patient survival rates significantly improve. Patient care costs also decrease by approximately $14,000. Infectious complications become less of a concern, as does organ failure. Patients receiving enteral nutrition need fewer surgical interventions, as well. However, enteral nutrition may not be enough for certain critically ill patients.
When a patient cannot meet their energy requirements solely through enteral nutrition, supplemental parental nutrition is of benefit. Supplementing the enteral nutrition helps to decrease the infection rate in these patients while keeping costs down. For those patients who are ready to be discharged but still need parental nutrition, a home option is offered.
The goal of hospital care is typically to have a patient return home while maintaining a healthy diet when they do so. Many hospitals offer bland diets and spend little time educating patients on healthy food choices. When the patient returns home, they don’t know what to eat or how much to eat. Patients often pick up a phone, order a meal, and have a tray delivered. While this option is appropriate in some situations, it’s best when a meal technician visits with each patient to discuss food choices and pick healthy meals.
A personalized meal-ordering system provides patients with more control over what they eat. Patients have different nutritional requirements based on their allergies, health conditions, and more. The system takes this into consideration when offering food choices.
Visitors to a Healthcare System
Visitors also need access to healthy foods. They want to enjoy a meal with their loved one who is a patient in the system. Doing so can be challenging in certain situations, which is why some healthcare systems are moving to healthier foods in their cafes and restaurants. This innovation helps all family members come together to improve the health of a loved one.
For example, the cafes and restaurants may serve whole grains as the main offerings and use fresh, seasonal, and local produce when possible. Made-to-order foods are prepared using misted broth or oil to reduce the fat content, and meals revolve around plant-based foods. Better nutrition improves the health of patients and visitors, and many healthcare organizations now make healthy food choices a priority across the board. In addition, all foods come with calorie labeling, so visitors can make healthy food choices based on their caloric intake and calorie expenditures.
One way to ensure patients eat better is to show them how to do so. Teaching experiences are of benefit to these individuals, as they do more than explore food and learn to make certain recipes. They also gain culinary and nutritional literacy, which leads to healthier food choices. In addition, they discover more about the impact food has on humans, communities, and the overall planet. These opportunities may be provided in person or virtually.
A balanced diet does more than improve a person’s health. When a person eats a healthy diet, they feel great. They have more energy to do the things they love and their mood is better. They have a more positive outlook on life. However, many healthcare organizations seem to forget this. They offer bland foods that people don’t want to eat, and this can delay recovery.
Innovation is needed in clinical nutrition. With the right food choices, a person will want to eat better and see these benefits in the process. Learn more today about these innovations and speak to local healthcare providers to encourage them to adopt these strategies. When a healthcare organization adopts them, everyone benefits, from the patient and their loved ones to the community as a whole. This makes the transition priceless.