Medically-tailored meal delivery tied to lower health spending

(Reuters Health) – Low-income people with chronic diseases who get free meals delivered that are tailored to their medical needs are less likely to be admitted to hospitals or nursing homes, a study in Massachusetts suggests.

Researchers followed 499 patients who had at least one year of weekly deliveries of 10 ready-to-eat meals customized to their specific health conditions. The study team also followed 521 individuals who had similar medical issues and other characteristics but didn’t receive the meals.

Overall, there were 1,242 inpatient hospital admissions and 1,213 skilled-nursing facility admissions during the study period.

The analysis found that if all the patients had received meal delivery, there would have been about half as many inpatient admissions and an even bigger reduction in skilled-nursing facility admissions.

Even after accounting for the cost of meals, researchers also calculated that average monthly health costs would have been about $753 lower per patient if everyone in the study received the meal deliveries.

“These results mean that if you have a serious medical illness that requires following a specific diet, and you would have trouble affording or otherwise following that diet, it would be worth looking into whether a medically-tailored meal program might be available to you, either through your health insurer or from a philanthropic organization in your area,” said lead study author Dr. Seth Berkowitz of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Typically, medically-tailored meal plans are designed by a nutritionist for people with chronic health problems like cancer, AIDS or diabetes and may be covered by insurance for some low-income individuals who can’t afford their groceries, Berkowitz said by email.

Including the cost of meals and medical care, average annual health costs would have been $3,838 per person if everyone in the study received the free meal deliveries and $5,591 per person if nobody got these meals, researchers calculated.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how medically tailored meal delivery services might directly improve patients’ health.

But there are several ways meal delivery might help, Berkowitz said.

For one thing, people might follow dietary requirements like limiting salt, fat or sugar with meal delivery but not with foods they got on their own, Berkowitz said. This might lead to fewer disease flare-ups and help reduce the risk of hospital or skilled-nursing facility admissions.

Meal delivery may also free-up funds people would otherwise spend on food and allow them to instead devote more of their limited resources to other necessities like medicine or rent or heat, Berkowitz said.

For people who don’t have money or time to shop and cook, deliveries might also help to reduce stress and enable people to focus on other aspects of their health and self-care, Berkowitz added.

“Many patients are too ill to grocery shop or cook and may not have the means to hire someone to help,” said Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study.

“In other instances, patients may not have the knowledge or skills to make appropriate choices to help them manage their health and budget,” Heller said by email.

While the ease of having meals delivered that are customized to patients’ health needs can make it easier for them to eat the way doctors want them to, costs can be steep if it isn’t covered by insurance, Heller said.

Even without delivery, patients may still be able to get help planning meals from a registered dietician or another healthcare provider, Heller said. Too often, however, patients are not aware of these services and don’t seek help.

“Patients, families and caregivers should check with their local hospitals, social workers, health insurance company, registered dietitians and health care providers for resources available in the community to help them manage their meals, budgets and health,” Heller advised.

SOURCE: and JAMA Internal Medicine, online April 22, 2019.


more recommended stories

  • AstraZeneca diabetes drug shows promise in heart failure

    (Reuters) – AstraZeneca (AZN.L) made strides.

  • Study prompts call for lower fluoride consumption by pregnant women

    (Reuters Health) – Adding fluoride to.

  • CDC investigates lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use

    FILE PHOTO: A man vapes outside.

  • E.coli in water forces Tokyo to cancel swimming at Paratriathlon World Cup

    TOKYO (Reuters) – High levels of.

  • E.coli risk forces Tokyo to cancel swim events at Paratriathlon World Cup

    TOKYO (Reuters) – High levels of.

  • First two Ebola cases confirmed in Congo’s South Kivu – officials

    FILE PHOTO: Children look at a.

  • Surgical training programs not supportive of new parents

    (Reuters Health) – Surgical residents say.

  • Liver disease related to obesity and diabetes rising in U.S.

    (Reuters Health) – The only liver.

  • Ebola ‘no longer incurable’ as Congo trial finds drugs boost survival

    LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are a.

  • Scientists hail promise of first effective Ebola treatments in Congo trial

    LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists are a.

  • China cuts 2019/20 corn use forecast by 2 million tonnes due to African swine fever

    Corn kernels are seen at a.

  • WHO says no new Ebola cases in Goma, vaccinates over 1,300

    FILE PHOTO: A young woman reacts.

  • Dengue death toll rises in Malaysia, number of cases close to double

    KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia saw.

  • Amgen wins U.S. patent battle on arthritis drug Enbrel, thwarting Novartis

    (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on.

  • AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso helps lung cancer patients live longer: study

    (Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc said on.

  • Study shows Apple devices in combo with apps could identify dementia

    FILE PHOTO: The new Apple iPhone.

  • Moving during early pregnancy may increase preterm birth risk

    (Reuters Health) – Moving to a.

  • Drug assistance programs offer little charity to uninsured

    (Reuters Health) – Many patients who.

  • In extreme heat, electric fans inadvisable unless it’s humid

    In extreme heat, electric fans may.

  • Trump administration considers September unveiling of healthcare plan: WSJ

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump.

  • Bulgaria to compensate owners who cull pigs to help stamp out swine fever

    FILE PHOTO: A pig rests at.

  • Yellow lens glasses don’t improve drivers’ night vision

    (Reuters Health) – – Touted to.

  • U.S. FDA approves Daiichi Sankyo’s treatment for rare joint tumor

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and.

  • For some surgeries, hospital rankings not tied to better outcomes

    (Reuters Health) – When it comes.

  • Congo says Rwanda has closed border near Goma

    Congolese customs agents gather at the.

  • Pluristem gets positive results from radiation treatment trials

    TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics.

  • Congress seeks briefing on potential threat to U.S. heparin supply

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Leaders of the.

  • U.S. judge blocks Medicaid work requirements in New Hampshire

    (Reuters) – A federal judge on.

  • Bernie Sanders visits Canadian pharmacy, talks drug prices

    WINDSOR, Ontario (Reuters) – U.S. Senator.

  • China detects African swine fever in pigs transported to Liaoning: Xinhua

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China detected African.

  • Sanofi ends partnership with Lexicon to develop diabetes drug

    FILE PHOTO: A logo of Sanofi.

  • WHO says it could use more U.S. help on the ground in Ebola fight

    GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States.