The prevention and reduction of weight loss in an acute tertiary care setting: protocol for a pragmatic stepped wedge randomised cluster trial (the PRoWL project)
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Background Malnutrition, with accompanying weight loss, is an unnecessary risk in hospitalised persons and often remains poorly recognised and managed. The study aims to evaluate a hospital-wide multifaceted intervention co-facilitated by clinical nurses and dietitians addressing the nutritional care of patients, particularly those at risk of malnutrition. Using the best available evidence on reducing and preventing unplanned weight loss, the intervention (introducing universal nutritional screening; the provision of oral nutritional supplements; and providing red trays and additional support for patients in need of feeding) will be introduced by local ward teams in a phased way in a large tertiary acute care hospital. Methods/Design A pragmatic stepped wedge randomised cluster trial with repeated cross section design will be conducted. The unit of randomisation is the ward, with allocation by a random numbers table. Four groups of wards (n = 6 for three groups, n = 7 for one group) will be randomly allocated to each intervention time point over the trial. Two trained local facilitators (a nurse and dietitian for each group) will introduce the intervention. The primary outcome measure is change in patient’s body weight, secondary patient outcomes are: length of stay, all-cause mortality, discharge destinations, readmission rates and ED presentations. Patient outcomes will be measured on one ward per group, with 20 patients measured per ward per time period by an unblinded researcher. Including baseline, measurements will be conducted at five time periods. Staff perspectives on the context of care will be measured with the Alberta Context Tool. Discussion Unplanned and unwanted weight loss in hospital is common. Despite the evidence and growing concern about hospital nutrition there are very few evaluations of system-wide nutritional implementation programs. This project will test the implementation of a nutritional intervention across one hospital system using a staged approach, which will allow sequential rolling out of facilitation and project support. This project is one of the first evidence implementation projects to use the stepped wedge design in acute care and we will therefore be testing the appropriateness of the stepped wedge design to evaluate such interventions.
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