Look at the older adults in your life and what do you see? Individuals in good health? Struggling with weight perhaps? Managing chronic diseases like diabetes?

What you probably don’t see is malnutrition, America’s silent epidemic among seniors. Adult malnutrition is different from other public health threats because it’s not always obvious. A recent study shows that just 7% of hospital patients are diagnosed as being malnourished during their stay even though up to 50% are malnourished or at high risk.*

This is a big problem—malnutrition is the leading cause of illness and death among older adults. It’s also a significant financial burden on hospitals. The costs associated with treating malnourished patients are 300% higher than other patients. This includes complications, falls, infections, pressure ulcers, longer length of stays, and readmissions.*

Are we failing those in our care?

Failure is a strong word, but placing more emphasis on early diagnosis of malnutrition in hospital patients and implementing proactive strategies to avoid and treat it would help improve patient outcomes and lower the cost of care. Let’s take a look at what patients currently receive to boost their nutrition:

Liquid supplements.These are the traditional solution and while they often contain acceptable levels of nutrition, they are perceived as “medicine” rather than food and go unconsumed.


Frozen or semi-frozen supplements. Packaged in cups or as shakes, these products emphasize calories over quality and contain typically contain HFCS, palm oil and other artificial ingredients. Overall nutrition is low. Taste and texture is poor.


Traditional hospital meals. While many hospitals are improving their menus, patients’ dietary restrictions may limit menu options. Unfamiliar or bland foods often go uneaten.


The net result of current nutritional strategies is poor compliance, high waste (half of what is served isn’t eaten), poor outcomes, dissatisfaction, and higher costs. In other words, current strategies aren’t solving the malnutrition epidemic.

Fortunately, change is coming.

At Thrive for Healthcare, we’re pleased to see the healthcare industry recognize the need for better ways to fight malnutrition, a position that directly aligns with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Triple Aim of improving the patient experience, improving population health and reducing the cost of care.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering the adoption of electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) for malnutrition. If implemented, hospitals will be required to report malnutrition as part of the hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program. This falls under the 2017 Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule, and would influence reimbursement.

Hospitals can also implement new, proactive nutritional strategies on their own. This includes more rigorous screening and diagnosis of at-risk populations—older adults—upon admission. There are new options in the nutritional arena that can be employed to deliver more nutrition and are more enjoyable to eat. More nutrition delivered can translate into better patient outcomes and lower cost of care.

Real food solutions that support modern nutritional strategies

Our company, Thrive Frozen Nutrition, was founded with the vision of transforming the healthcare and senior care nutrition industries. We believe in and support the current trend of “real” food, recognizing  people are more likely to eat nutritious foods that have the same flavors and textures of those they routinely enjoy.

Our initial product, Thrive Ice Cream, proved us right. Thrive is real ice cream that is high in protein and contains 24 vitamins and minerals, natural prebiotics fiber, and active probiotics that support digestive and immune health. It’s made from Real Dairy certified milk and cream and contains no HFCS, palm oil, hormones, or artificial colors. Thrive Ice Cream is certified kosher, gluten free, low lactose, and suitable for dysphagia and other medically driven diets.

Packed in 6-ounce, single serve cups, Thrive Ice Cream is intended as a meal supplement or replacement. In a sponsored study, participants whose diets were supplemented by Thrive gained five times the weight as those on another well-known supplement. Equally important, Thrive Ice Cream enjoys a 95% acceptance rate. It’s delicious. Review the nutritional facts and clinical indications for using Thrive Ice Cream.

This year we introduced Thrive Gelato, which delivers enhanced nutrition and the same great flavor people have come to expect from Thrive, but in a smaller portion (4 ounces) and lower cost. With 9 grams of protein and 24 vitamins and minerals per serving, Thrive Gelato is intended for use as a nutritious snack or dessert. Review the nutritional facts.

Currently, Thrive Ice Cream and Thrive Gelato are part of the nutritional food offerings of more than 1,000 hospitals and senior care facilities across the U.S. and the number is growing every day. The reason? We’re effectively addressing the malnutrition epidemic through improved nutrition, increased compliance with prescribed foods (Thrive), far less waste on patients’ trays, and more satisfaction. When malnourished patients consume healthful foods, the result is better outcomes and lower costs associated with malnutrition.

Is your hospital or senior living community looking for nutritional products to help end the malnutrition epidemic among adults? We are happy to provide samples to your dietitian and foodservice leadership. Contact us now. Learn more about Thrive here.


* Source: Malnutrition Quality Improvement Initiative

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