How can a multi-disciplinary prescribing strategy support appropriate prescribing of oral nutritional supplements (ONS) by Irish general practitioners (GPs)?

Malnutrition is a major burden to the Irish health service as malnourished patients have poorer health and are more expensive to treat than patients who are well-nourished. The annual cost of healthcare associated with malnutrition is approximately €1.4 billion in Ireland (10% of our total healthcare budget). Oral nutritional supplements (ONS) are an effective method to manage malnutrition, improve healthcare outcomes and decrease healthcare costs if prescribed for patients who are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition in the community/primary care setting (NICE, 2013). The current cost of these supplements in Ireland is over €30 million per annum. A number of studies indicate that Irish GPs do not know the nutritional content of these supplements, are unsure which patients benefit from them and do not provide patients with practical advice on how they should be taken. This results in patients at risk of malnutrition being poorly managed nutritionally and patients who are not at risk sometimes receiving costly treatments that will not benefit them. This research will investigate why GPs prescribe ONS and will design and test an education intervention that will support GPs to appropriately prescribe these products. GPs, patients, dietitians, nurses and pharmacists will be consulted to ensure that the intervention meets the needs of patients and healthcare workers within the Irish healthcare setting and the researchers will also consider what works in other countries. The intervention will be evaluated by carrying out interviews with healthcare workers after the intervention. Information on prescribing of ONS that is collected by the Health Service Executive will also be used to investigate if changes occur and whether these changes benefit patient care, specifically in how patients at risk of malnutrition are managed.

Award Date
23 February 2018
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Clare Corish
Host Institution
University College Dublin
Research Collaborative in Quality and Patient Safety