Elderly residents at more than 100 care homes in Scotland are set to benefit from a high-tech nutritional support service developed by NHS Tayside in partnership with Inhealthcare.
The new digital pathway is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and reduce the inappropriate prescribing of oral nutritional supplements.
NHS Scotland has said malnutrition and dehydration have substantial adverse effects on health yet often go unrecognised and untreated.
It is estimated that one in three people admitted to hospital are malnourished or at risk of becoming so. The annual cost of disease-related malnutrition to the public purse is £13bn.
NHS Scotland has said savings could be made through full implementation of high quality pathways of nutritional care.
Inhealthcare worked with dietitians at NHS Tayside to develop the nutritional support pathway, which went live this month.
Whenever there is cause for concern, care home staff use the service to refer residents to dietitians via a digital questionnaire.
Dietitians review the responses and if the patient is accepted into their caseload then care home staff are provided with advice on food and where appropriate, oral nutritional supplements. A schedule for regular monitoring is established until the resident’s nutrition is stabilised.
Care home staff enter monitoring data into the digital platform and this includes weight, body mass index, food and drink intake, appetite and number of supplements consumed. This data creates a patient dashboard that then creates alerts if readings fall out of range, allowing dietitians to respond to those in most need.
The digital service should help ensure more efficient prescribing by helping to cut down on the stockpiling of oral nutritional supplements as the system calculates the supplements used and what needs to be reordered, based on the patient intake for each care home.
Dr Janet Baxter, Nutritional Support Service Lead at NHS Tayside, said: “Our new service improves resident safety and experience, increases the engagement of care home staff in resident care and reduces inappropriate prescribing of oral nutritional supplements.
“It will make sure that residents are getting the right care at the right time in the right volume.”
Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare, said: “We are delighted to be working with NHS Tayside on this innovative service.
“It will benefit the healthcare system by making it easier to manage routine cases and freeing up clinicians to focus their care on those residents with the greatest need.
“The technology has the potential to be expanded into other dietetic-led services for conditions such as diabetes, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and coeliac disease.”