Long-term care communities can reduce costs and staff time required to care for people who have pressure ulcers by using wound-specific oral nutritional supplements (WS-ONS), a new study finds.

The study was published this week in Journal of Long-Term Care. The researchers created a model that estimated how much it costs in money and human resources to treat pressure ulcers using the vitamins.  

Annually, a typical nursing home or long-term care community with 85 residents would have 16 pressure ulcer cases. Depending on the stage of the ulcer, taking WS-ONS lowered the time it took for the wounds to heal by 5.7 to 7.9 weeks compared to the usual standard of care. The supplements reduced nursing home costs by $6,319 per person with a stage 2 pressure ulcer, by $7,651 per person for a stage 3 ulcerPI and $16,579 per person for a stage 4 ulcer.

The total cost savings from using the supplements for the whole community a year were $44,230 for stage 2 ulcers, $15,301 for stage 3 ulcers and $49,737 for stage 4 ulcers. Regardless of the stage of the ulcer, using the supplements yielded an annual cost savings of $109,269. Using the supplements also used fewer human resources, as it reduced staff time by 65 hours per person, or 1,040 hours per nursing home each year.

Nursing home staff time saving from WS-ONS administration was 65 hours per person or 1,040 hours per nursing home per year.

When a person cannot have a normal diet — or even if they can — supplements can better support the process for the wound to heal. Common WS-ONS supplements include arginine, glutamine and β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB). Research has already shown that taking the supplements can shorten the healing process by about 50%.