Topical Area: Diet and Cancer, Nutrition Translation
Objectives : Nutritional services are a critical component of cancer care, yet Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) staffing patterns in outpatient cancer centers are poorly documented. The objective of this study was to inform availability of nutrition services by examining RDN staffing and utilization in outpatient cancer centers nationwide.
An online questionnaire was developed and approved by the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (a practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and The Ohio State University Institutional Review Board. The deidentified survey was intended for RDNs who practice at outpatient oncology centers and distributed via Academy email in fall 2017. To avoid duplication, each respondent was prompted to submit one survey per center. Annual analytic cases, representing unique new patients diagnosed and treated at each center, were collected. Data on RDN staffing patterns, reimbursement for services, and malnutrition screening practices were analyzed.
Over one year, 310 surveys were submitted and 206 provided usable data. Of those, 82% of the centers reported at least one dedicated RDN on staff with an average of 1.7 RDN full-time equivalents. The mean annual analytic cases reported were 2,043, representing a RDN-to-patient ratio of 1:1,202. During this time, RDNs evaluated an average of 7.5 patients per day, yet 48% of centers did not bill for nutrition services. Over half (54%) of the participating facilities screened for malnutrition using a validated or adapted screening tool, such as the Malnutrition Screening Tool.
This is the first comprehensive, national study to inform nutrition care provider-to-patient ratio in cancer centers which have at least one dedicated RDN. Screening for malnutrition and billing for nutritional evaluations were not widely practiced in the participating facilities. Our findings indicate that the majority of cancer centers nationally are providing inadequate RDN coverage and have low utilization of nutrition services.
Funding Sources : N/A
National Cancer Institute, NIH
Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania Health System
The Mesothelioma Center
The Ohio State University
OSUWMC - The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
The Ohio State University College of Medicine