Newswise — CHICAGO – Hospital patients may now see improved quality and timeliness of nutrition health care and hospitals will save hundreds of millions of dollars annually because of a new rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Registered dietitian nutritionists will now be able to work more independently in hospitals, providing patients with more effective and efficient nutrition care thanks to the final rule on therapeutic diet orders,” said registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy President Dr. Glenna McCollum.

“CMS’ new rule will eliminate burdensome and superfluous regulations that are adding to our nation’s health care costs,” McCollum said. “Allowing registered dietitian nutritionists to independently order therapeutic diets and monitor and manage dietary plans for their hospital patients will save the country hundreds of millions of dollars and also help hospitals provide better multidisciplinary care.”

By streamlining the health care process, practitioners can focus on treating patients with the highest quality of care, McCollum said. “CMS made this change after reviewing the substantial scientific evidence demonstrating that registered dietitian nutritionists have the expertise and competency to effectively order diets. We are thrilled that the rule is based on evidence and proven outcomes that will save hospitals money.”

The final rule aims to remove unnecessary and excessive hospital procedures, making facilities more efficient and productive. According to CMS: “In order for patients to receive timely nutritional care, the RD must be viewed as an integral member of the hospital interdisciplinary care team, one who, as the team’s clinical nutrition expert, is responsible for a patient’s nutritional diagnosis and treatment in light of the patient’s medical diagnosis.”

Under the new rule, which is scheduled to take effect July 11, qualified registered dietitian nutritionists will be able to order patient diets, and hospitals will be able to privilege them to order nutrition-related laboratory tests to monitor and modify diet plans without the supervision or approval of a physician.

“Eliminating extra steps in the treatment process will free up resources, allowing all health care providers to care for patients more effectively and efficiently,” McCollum said. The current process for ordering therapeutic diets carries a financial and health burden on the health care system. Wrong diet orders and delays in nutrition intervention can result in malnutrition, allergic reactions, choking, or aspiration leading to death and other complications along with increased length of stay and higher readmission rates.

CMS estimates the savings from the new rule at $459 million per year.

“The Academy and our members could not agree more with CMS’ conclusion that ’the addition of ordering privileges enhances the ability that RDs already have to provide timely, cost-effective and evidence-based nutrition services as the recognized nutrition experts on a hospital interdisciplinary team’, ” McCollum said.

The Academy has been working with CMS for more than four years to minimize procedural inefficiencies in hospitals and create a system that allows practitioners to work at the highest level of their scope of practice which considers training, expertise and competency. “The Academy plans to continue to work with CMS to eradicate unnecessary barriers in other health care settings, such as long-term care and ambulatory facilities, to ensure people receive the high-quality nutrition care they deserve.” McCollum said.


All registered dietitians are nutritionists – but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians. The Academy’s Board of Directors and Commission on Dietetic Registration have determined that those who hold the credential registered dietitian (RD) may optionally use “registered dietitian nutritionist” (RDN) instead. The two credentials have identical meanings.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at