Process evaluation of the implementation of a decision support system to prevent and treat disease-related malnutrition in a hospital setting

BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Mar 25;21(1):281. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-06236-3.


Background: Malnutrition is present in 30% of hospitalized patients and has adverse outcomes for the patient and the healthcare system. The current practice for nutritional care is associated with many barriers. The MyFood decision support system was developed to prevent and treat malnutrition.

Methods: This paper reports on a process evaluation that was completed within an effectiveness trial. MyFood is a digital tool with an interface consisting of an app and a website. MyFood includes functions to record and evaluate dietary intake. It also provides reports to nurses, including tailored recommendations for nutritional treatment. We used an effectiveness-implementation hybrid design in a randomized controlled trial. The RE-AIM (Reach, Efficiency, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance) framework was used to perform a process evaluation alongside the randomized controlled trial, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. An implementation plan, including implementation strategies, was developed to plan and guide the study.

Results: Reach: In total, 88% of eligible patients consented to participate (n = 100). Adoption: Approximately 75% of the nurses signed up to use MyFood and 50% used the reports.

Implementation: MyFood empowered the patients in their nutritional situation and acted as a motivation to eat to reach their nutritional target. The compliance of using MyFood was higher among the patients than the nurses. A barrier for use of MyFood among the nurses was different digital systems which were not integrated and the log-in procedure to the MyFood website. Despite limited use by some nurses, the majority of the nurses claimed that MyFood was useful, better than the current practice, and should be implemented in the healthcare system.

Conclusions: This study used a process evaluation to interpret the results of a randomized controlled trial more in-depth. The patients were highly compliant, however, the compliance was lower among the nurses. MyFood empowered the patients in their nutritional situation, the usability was considered as high, and the experiences and attitudes towards MyFood were primarily positive. Focus on strategies to improve the nurses' compliance may in the future improve the MyFood system's potential.

Trial registration: The trial was registered in 26/01/2018 ( NCT03412695 ).

Keywords: Decision support system; Malnutrition; Process evaluation; RE-AIM, effectiveness-implementation hybrid design; eHealth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition* / prevention & control

Associated data