March is National Nutrition Month and a good time to consider how nutrition can be better integrated into clinical preventive care for older adults. One opportunity is a new health equity Improvement Activity for food insecurity and nutrition risk identification and treatment.

The Improvement Activity was recently approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for 2022 reporting in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Office-based physicians and clinicians who participate in MIPS can now choose this new Improvement Activity to help enhance clinical practice and better patient outcomes.

The structure of MIPS encourages clinicians to focus more broadly on preventive care areas like nutrition. Better nutrition care can also help clinicians improve their performance on required quality metrics, such as those related to falls risk, diabetes control, and hospital readmissions. Food insecurity and nutrition risk (can include undernutrition, overnutrition, lack of adequate protein, calories, and/or other nutrients) are interconnected conditions that worsened during the pandemic. Malnutrition can lead to a number of poor health outcomes including increased morbidity and mortality, increased length of hospital stay and rehospitalizations, increased healthcare costs, and increased disability. Food insecurity and malnutrition are also related to health equity as poor diet and lack of access to healthy foods can contribute to health disparities.

CMS identified in its final rule (see pages 2353-2354 of the Final Rule) specific actions to implement the food insecurity and nutrition risk IA, including using the Malnutrition Quality Improvement Initiative (MQii) and standardized screening tools. The MQii offers a number of resources for MIPS participants and has also outlined helpful screening and intervention workflows.

Beth Besecker, MD, MBA, SSGB
Director, Medical Affairs Adult Nutrition
Abbott Nutrition Division of Abbott

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