One in Three Hospitalized Patients is Malnourished; Experts Call for Better Diagnosis and Treatment

September 24, 2013

Underperformed Nutrition Assessment Associated with Poorer Outcomes and Higher Cost 

Multiple studies find that approximately one in every three patients admitted to a hospital in the United States is suffering from malnutrition, and in many cases patients are becoming malnourished while in the hospital. Malnourished patients often require longer hospital stays, have a greater chance of readmission, and suffer higher rates of complication and death. The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.) believes that this problem has been allowed to continue for far too long and requires immediate action.

“To have a hospital patient’s life put at risk because we fail to assess and treat their basic nutritional needs is unacceptable,” said Vihas Patel, MD, a director of metabolic support service for Brigham and Women's Hospital and a member of the A.S.P.E.N. Malnutrition Committee. “A comparably small investment of time and resources by our hospitals would save lives and money.” 

A.S.P.E.N. strongly encourages all clinicians to utilize standard nutrition screening and assessment protocols in every patient. A.S.P.E.N. is partnering with other organizations to raise awareness on patient malnutrition screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. A.S.P.E.N. is also advocating for stakeholders such as The Joint Commission, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to examine this important issue and incorporate the research into standards, diagnostic codes, and best practice protocols. 

“While progress has been made to get hospitals to voluntarily adopt standard practices for the diagnoses, treatment and tracking of patients with malnutrition, there is a strong need now for mandated action,” said Peggi Guenter, PhD, RN, Senior Director of Clinical Practice, Advocacy, and Research Affairs for A.S.P.E.N. “What is specifically needed is a hard examination of the facts; nutrition screening, assessment and treatment of our hospitalized patients must be elevated to a higher priority in the overall care plan of these acutely ill patients.” 

A.S.P.E.N. has been publishing Standards of Practice, Clinical Guidelines Statements and other clinical documents for more than 20 years. Specific guidelines on nutrition screening and assessment, malnutrition diagnostic characteristics and markers, and an entire malnutrition toolkit is available.

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The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.) is dedicated to improving patient care by advancing the science and practice of nutrition support therapy and metabolism. Founded in 1976, A.S.P.E.N. is an interdisciplinary organization whose members are involved in the provision of clinical nutrition therapies, including parenteral and enteral nutrition. With more than 5,500 members from around the world, A.S.P.E.N. is a community of dietitians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physicians, scientists, students and other health professionals from every facet of nutrition support clinical practice, research and education. For more information about A.S.P.E.N., please visit