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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2018

Process, structural, and outcome quality indicators of nutritional care in nursing homes: a systematic review

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Chiara Lorini, Barbara Rita Porchia, Francesca Pieralli, Gugliemo Bonaccorsi



The quality of nursing homes (NHs) has attracted a lot of interest in recent years and is one of the most challenging issues for policy-makers. Nutritional care should be considered an important variable to be measured from the perspective of quality management. The aim of this systematic review is to describe the use of structural, process, and outcome indicators of nutritional care in NHs and the relationship among them.


The literature search was carried out in Pubmed, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science. A temporal filter was applied in order to select papers published in the last 10 years. All types of studies were included, with the exception of reviews, conference proceedings, editorials, and letters to the editor. Papers published in languages other than English, Italian, and Spanish were excluded.


From the database search, 1063 potentially relevant studies were obtained. Of these, 19 full-text articles were considered eligible for the final synthesis. Most of the studies adopted an observational cross-sectional design. They generally assessed the quality of nutritional care using several indicators, usually including a mixture of many different structural, process, and outcome indicators. Only one of the 19 studies described the quality of care by comparing the results with the threshold values. Nine papers assessed the relationship between indicators and six of them described some significant associations—in the NHs that have a policy related to nutritional risk assessment or a suitable scale to weigh the residents, the prevalence or risk of malnutrition is lower. Finally, only four papers of these nine included risk adjustment. This could limit the comparability of the results.


Our findings show that a consensus must be reached for defining a set of indicators and standards to improve quality in NHs. Establishing the relationship between structural, process, and outcome indicators is a challenge. There are grounds for investigating this theme by means of prospective longitudinal studies that take the risk adjustment into account.
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