Reducing Hospital Readmissions with Home Meal Delivery Programs

Reducing readmission rate is a critical aspect of government reimbursement programs for hospitals. Low readmission isn’t only a sign of a higher quality of care but also the key for having more beds available to accept new patients, allowing the facility to maximize its resources and profitability. One key factor that promotes faster patient recovery is nutrition. Foodservice directors can directly impact the readmission rate through effective nutrition management not only during patients’ hospital stay but also when discharged.

Think Nutrition and Flavor

Hospitals with room service programs value the importance of nutrition, flavor and food presentation, which is why a growing number of facilities employ in-house chefs to exclusively plan and design impressive restaurant menus for patients.

Shoreline Collection Meadow on Tray

These skilled chefs know how to transform dull plates in appetizing and nutritious meals while meeting dietary guidelines. However, while nutrition can be managed in the hospital, it is quite different at home after being discharged. Many patients do not follow the same dietary guidelines at home, which delays recovery time and increases hospital readmission rates. This is especially true for seniors with limited mobility and independence.

Nutrition Delivered

Hospitals can reduce readmission rates by partnering with foodservice companies that prepare and deliver ready-made nutritious snacks and meals to recently discharged patients’ homes. Three meals and two snacks are delivered each for a period of time following a patient’s dietary needs and participants are typically monitored for readmission.

Lee Memorial Health System in Florida began their Flavor Harvest program in 2014, providing three meals and snacks for patients meeting certain clinical criteria. Slated as a six-month trial, the system expanded the program in 2015 year because of its success. Meals are delivered once a week for four weeks, and nutrition is tailored based on the patient’s health. The six-month pilot saw a readmission rate of 17 % among participants, compared with a 28 % rate among similar patients. Lee Memorial Health System estimates that expanding their program statewide would save the system $1.5 million annually, even when factoring in program costs.

Eskenazi Health in Indiana which has partnered with Meals on Wheels and is aiming to reduce the readmission rate from 22% to 8% among their meal program participants, and Steward Health Care in Massachusetts has also launched a food program to cut down on 30-day readmissions.

A similar pilot program with the Area 1 Agency on Aging and Humboldt Senior Services Center in California saw only one of the original 12 patients readmitted in 30 days, which is significantly below the national 19 % readmission rate.

Better Outcomes

Common sense dictates that reducing readmission rates will save money for hospitals while improving quality of care. Clearly, these programs have the potential to offer mutually beneficial outcomes for both patients and providers.

Contact your local Cambro Healthcare Representative for tips on how to improve patient appetite by enhancing tray presentation.

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