Nutrition Screening and Assessment in Hospital Patients: A Survey of Current Practice in the United States

     Malnutrition is a major contributor to increased morbidity and mortality, leading to hospital readmissions and higher health-care costs.  Current estimates of the prevalence of in-hospital malnutrition, pediatric and adult alike, range from 13%–88% depending on the patient population, disease severity, and the criteria used to identify its occurrence.  In 1995, The Joint Commission mandated that nutrition screening be performed within 24 hours of hospital admission, with a full nutrition assessment completed if the screen identified an at-risk patient. In addition, periodic rescreening must occur at regular intervals.
     Beyond language mandating performance of nutrition screening and assessment upon hospital admission, few guidelines were given.  In fact, there are few reports describing how individual hospitals in the United States have implemented The Joint Commission’s mandate. Furthermore, while there are several published nutrition screening tools that have been studied in both adult and pediatric populations, no established standard on the components essential for screening or the qualifications of the screener have been universally adopted. 
     This report is a summary of findings from a 2012–2013 survey of multidisciplinary hospital professionals, including dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, and physicians, that sought to assess the current state of nutrition screening and assessment in U.S. hospitals.