A consultant dietitian is an essential part of the long-term care interdisciplinary team.

As such, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require that facilities receive frequently scheduled consultations from a qualified dietitian (1).

But for good reasons.

Here are six ways a consultant dietitian can benefit your nursing facility.

1. They are cost effective

Onboarding a full-time dietitian is expensive. Aside from human resource hassles, there is medical, dental, vision, 401 K, insurance and many other expenses to cover.

Due to costs, this is why many facilities choose to partner with a consultant dietitian — there are no headaches and hassles with hiring or additional costs.

Ultimately, contracting with a consultant dietitian can save your organization time and money, yet still allow you to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

2. They improve quality of life

Therapeutic diets are often ordered for residents of long-term care facilities. These diets are intended to treat a disease or manage a medical condition.

Therapeutic diets, however, may not be appropriate for all nursing home residents.

A move towards liberalized diets can maximize residents’ meal intake, minimize struggle over dietary compliance, and improve residents’ quality of life.

The consultant dietitian can work to educate your residents on making wise nutritional choices, helping them understand how their decisions can impact their health.

3. They improve health outcomes

The goal for nutrition intervention for the older adult is maintenance of good health and the reduction of disease.

Many studies show that medical nutrition therapy (MNT) can help residents’ better manage certain conditions through nutrition assessment, care planning, and continuous evaluation of interventions.

Taken together, nutrition intervention by the consultant dietitian can reduce complication rates, hospital readmission rates, mortality, and cost of care.

4. They reduce healthcare costs

The frequency of residents returning to the hospital within 30 days for further treatment is being tracked and financial penalties are at risk.

A significant number of these readmissions have a nutrition component, which includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), malnutrition, pressure ulcers, and heart failure.

The consultant dietitian has an important overview of the health and nutritional condition of the long-term care resident. This nutrition expertise can save a facility the financial penalties that could occur.

The dietitian is prepared to actively participate in the quality assurance and performance improvement team of the organization.

5. They can increase financial reimbursement

Under the patient driven payment model (PDPM), dietitians can help identify, document, and treat key nutrition-related diagnoses for improved patient outcomes and increased financial reimbursement.

PDPM is a case-mix classification system for classifying skilled nursing facility (SNF) patients in a Medicare Part A covered stay into payment groups.

By identifying, documenting, and correctly coding conditions and services, including dysphagia, nutrition support, morbid obesity, and malnutrition, dietitians can increase the reimbursement factor for patients in a Medicare Part A covered stay.

6. They are the food and nutrition experts

Many health care providers have some education in nutrition. The dietitian is the food and nutrition expert.

They have in-depth knowledge about the role of food and nutrition in the prevention, treatment, and progression of disease.

Dietitians are also knowledgeable about nutrient composition and preparation of food, and the many factors that affect food and nutrition behavior of people across the life cycle, including older adults.

Finally, they have the skills to translate scientific information into laymen’s terms and assist individuals in gaining knowledge and improve decision making.


Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD
Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD is a registered dietitian with a master's of science in human nutrition and bioenergetics. Gavin specializes in nutrition for older adults and regulations surrounding long-term care as they relate to food and nutrition.