Lee Memorial Health System wants to expand a program that targets malnutrition. Malnutrition is poor health caused by eating unhealthy foods or just not eating enough.
Malnourished patients are more likely to develop infections after surgery and are more likely to be readmitted to the hospital.
But, the condition can be hard to detect. Older folks are especially at risk because of things like taking medications that suppress their appetites.
Lee Memorial developed a program to identify and address local malnutrition rates.
A program called Flavor Harvest @ Home starts with dieticians assessing inpatients for different signs of malnourishment.
Eligible patients then get a home meal delivery plan after they’re discharged. The plan accounts for three meals a day, every day for a month.
Lee Memorial looks for other services to continue providing the patient with food once the home meal delivery plan is completed.
The hospital studied 1,900 patients in 2015 for malnutrition. It found about 17 percent were undernourished.
Lee Memorial’s Larry Altier said of those patients who were readmitted to the hospital, those who did not use the program had about a 13 percent higher return rate.
Altier said the program works.
“It's a low-risk, low-cost way to not only help people improve their clinical care but reduce operating costs, prevent readmission and just simply help people get over their illness,” he said.
Cape Coral Hospital and Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers offer the full program. Altier said Lee Memorial intends to expand it to the rest of the system, but it needs to hire the staff first.