Supplements may help to save health costs in hospitals

September 13, 2013

According to a new US study oral supplementation can reduce the length of hospitalization and related costs of patients with nutritional deficiencies.

In the retrospective observational study, length of hospital stay, cost of treatment and the probability of hospital readmission within 30 days were compared between patients with nutritional deficiencies who received oral and non-oral supplementation (a total of 1,160,088 cases) or those who received no supple-ments (1). The study results showed that patients receiving oral nutritional supplements had a shorter length of stay by an average of 2.3 days (8.6 days compared to 10.9 = –21%), decreased episode cost of average $4,734 (down from $21,950 to USD 17,216 = –21.6%) and a 2.3 percentage points reduced risk of early readmission (from 34.3% to 32.0% = –6.7%).

The researchers commented that patients identified as having nutritional deficiencies often face a longer and more difficult recovery process, resulting in higher health-care costs and an increase in complication rates. Because oral nutritional supplements are formulated to provide advanced nutrition and calories for patients and are relatively inexpensive to provide, the sizeable savings they generate make supplementation a cost-effective therapy.

Malnutrition is a serious and underappreciated problem among hospitalized patients, which is related to heightened risks of poor outcomes, including increased length of stay, healthcare costs, complication rates, readmission rates and mortality (2). Estimates of malnutrition prevalence in the inpatient population range from 8% to 62%, depending on the location and the specific patient population considered. Groups at highest risk include elderly as well as oncology and gastroenterology patients. Despite evidence documenting the deleterious effects of malnutrition in the inpatient setting, studies suggest it is a common problem that often goes unrecognized and undertreated. A growing body of evidence suggests that oral nutrition supplements, which deliver both macronutrients and micronutrients for special medical purposes in addition to normal food, might improve outcomes among hospitalized patients (3, 4).


  1. Philipson T. J. et al. Impact of Oral Nutritional Supplementation on Hospital Outcomes. American Journal of Managed Care. 2013; 19(2):121–128.
  2. Correia M. I. and Waitzberg D. L. The impact of malnutrition on morbidity, mortality, length of hospital stay and costs evaluated through a multivariate model analysis. Clin Nutr. 2003; 22(3):235–239.
  3. Gariballa S. et al. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Nutritional Supplementation During Acute Illness. The American Journal of Medicine. 2006; 119(8):693–699.
  4. Gariballa S. and Forster S. Effects of dietary supplements on depressive symptoms in older patients: a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2007; 26(5):545–551.