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OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to determine whether modified low- and high-risk Malnutrition Screening Tool (MST) scores (2 versus >2, respectively) were independently predictive of health economic outcomes.
METHODS: We analyzed data from a recent nutrition-based quality improvement program (QIP) that prescribed daily oral nutritional supplements for all hospitalized adults at risk for malnutrition. In the original study, an electronic medical records-based MST was administered at the time of admission, and patients were classified as "low risk" or "high risk" for malnutrition based on MST scores (2 versus ≥2). We compared health economic outcomes for patients at low or high risk for malnutrition based on a modified score (MST = 2 versus >2, respectively), looking for between-group differences in length of stay (LOS) and unplanned 30-d readmissions. Analyses were additionally stratified by age (<65 versus ≥65 y of age).
RESULTS: Of the 1269 patients enrolled in the QIP, 413 (32.5%) had MST of 2 and 856 (67.5%) had MST >2. Mean LOS was 5.19 d (±4.78) for patients with MST 2 and 4.49 d (±4.69) with MST >2 (non-statistically significant between-group difference; P = 0.277). There were no significant differences in unplanned 30-d readmission rates (14% for low-risk and 17.1% for high-risk patients; P = 0.171). These findings remained statistically insignificant when the low- and high-risk MST score groups were further stratified by age.
CONCLUSIONS: Outcomes of hospitalized patients with MST 2 were not significantly different from those with an MST >2. This suggests that patients at both lower and higher risk for malnutrition (based on MST scores of 2 versus ≥3) were similar in terms of LOS and 30-d readmission rates. To avoid overlooking cases of malnutrition risk, the validated cutoff scores for the MST should be consistently implemented. Training that is consistent with the validated MST is recommended rather than attempting to reduce the case burden by "raising the bar" and attempting to classify patients with an MST = 2 as "low risk."
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