Nutrition screening can identify patients at risk for malnutrition so that early nutrition intervention can be initiated. The aim of this descriptive study was to compare nutrition screening practices in Australian hospitals in 2008 with those in 1995.
A survey on nutrition screening practices in Australian healthcare institutions was sent to members of the Dietitians Association of Australia in 1995 and a similar survey in 2008.
Sixty-eight hospitals responded to the 2008 survey and 124 hospitals to the 1995 survey. The number of hospitals reporting the conduct of nutrition screening has increased since 1995 (78% vs 23%). The number of patients being screened has also increased (all admissions 54% vs 35%) and the time taken to screen a patient has decreased (0-5 minutes 64% vs 13%). The Malnutrition Screening Tool was the most frequently reported screening tool used in 2008 (67%). The use of albumin as a nutrition screening parameter (which was the second most commonly used screening indicator after weight loss in 1995) has appropriately decreased (9% vs 65%). There is still some confusion among dietitians as to the definition of screening, with nutrition assessment tools such as Subjective Global Assessment and Mini-Nutritional Assessment being used during the nutrition screening process (16% in 2008). Insufficient time and staff are still the top two barriers to nutrition screening implementation. Staff training was the most frequently cited strategy to assist with successful implementation of nutrition screening.
There has been a significant increase in malnutrition screening over the past decade despite ongoing barriers to implementation.