Nutrition screening in older adults is not routinely performed in Australian primary care settings. Low awareness of the extent of malnutrition in this patient group, lack of training and time constraints are major barriers that practice staff face. This study aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of including a validated nutrition screening tool and accompanying nutrition resource kit for use with older patients attending general practice. Secondary aims were to assess nutrition-related knowledge of staff and to identify the extent of malnutrition in this patient group.
Nine general practitioners, two general practice registrars and 11 practice nurses from three participating general practices in a rural, regional and metropolitan area within a local health district of New South Wales, Australia were recruited by convenience sampling.
Individual in-depth interviews, open-ended questionnaires and an 11-item knowledge questionnaire were completed three months following in-practice group workshops on the Mini Nutritional Assessment Short Form (MNA-SF). Staff were encouraged to complete the MNA-SF within the Medicare-funded 75+ Health Assessment within this time period. Staff interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using qualitative analysis software QSR NVivo 10.
Four key themes were determined regarding the feasibility of performing MNA –SF: ease of use; incorporation into existing practice; benefit to patients’ health; and patients’ perception of MNA-SF. Two key themes related to the nutrition resource kit: applicability and improvement. These findings were supported by open ended questionnaire responses. Knowledge scores of staff significantly improved from baseline (52% to 66%; P < 0.05). Of the 143 patients that had been screened, 4.2% (n = 6) were classified as malnourished, 26.6% (n = 38) ‘at risk’ of malnutrition and 69.2% (n = 99) as well-nourished.
It is feasible to include the MNA-SF and a nutrition resource kit within routine general practice, but further refinement of patients’ electronic clinical records in general practice software would streamline this process.