The main purpose of the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) is to ensure the consistent quality and accuracy of patient-provider interactions, which in turn improves the probability of achieving desired patient outcomes. The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines the NCP as "a system for coordinating wellness education and treatments with individuals and groups, both inside and outside the health care environment, in order to optimize the outcomes for all involved". This concept of the NCP is highly important in ensuring that the various processes of care are well-implemented. For example, the NCP would include quality improvement activities in clinical documentation, which would be aimed at improving the reliability of such documentation, as well as the timeliness with which such documentation is completed. Also, the NCP would identify and address specific issues affecting care for specific groups of people such as the disabled, elderly, children, women and minority groups.
One aspect of the NCP is the development of a universal protocol for the assessment and evaluation of nutrition interventions and other services for particular patient groups. This would include an assessment of symptoms, severity of illness and general state of health and medical history. For this, the nutrition specialist would conduct a thorough physical examination on the individual, order laboratory tests, conduct interviews with the families of the patient and other professionals involved in the patient's care, and set up follow-up appointments. By doing this, the nutrition specialist can determine the nutrition needs of the individual and recommend appropriate nutritional interventions or services, depending on the identified symptoms.
Another aspect of the NCP is the implementation of a system-wide systemic screening and diagnostic interview for determining appropriate nutrition interventions. A comprehensive diagnostic interview helps the health professional in developing the necessary criteria for nutrition care processes, which would include symptoms, severity of illness, objectives, risk factors, recommended treatment modalities, preferred dietary categories, and a systematic listing of food items according to the nutrient content. All information gathered from the screening and diagnostic interviews can be used for both individual and family health management plans and for research purposes. The purpose of the NCP is to coordinate care with a view toward providing optimum nutrition to patients with chronic diseases.
A further aspect of the NCP involves the use of official dietary guidelines published by the IBSS and the NCNP. Official dietary guidelines are referred to as "DSM" publications. They form the bedrock of the nutrition care process, since they lay down what kinds of foods, which kinds of nutrients, which kinds of dietary products are suitable for individuals with certain specific conditions, what kinds of dietary supplements are available, and which nutrients are good for the body. These official dietary guidelines have been reviewed and approved by an expert panel, which comprises experts in nutrition and relevant field studies.
Besides the above, another aspect of the NCP involves evidence analysis. In evidence analysis, health professionals use data gathered from studies, case studies, reviews, experimentation and observational studies in support of their statements. The experts do this through computer databases that hold large amounts of data, as well as other types of electronic health records (EHRs). They also conduct interviews and questionnaires, as well as perform demographic or descriptive studies.
An additional aspect of the nutrition care process is the use of outcome alignment. In an NCP, the health professional makes all of his or her recommendations based on the best available evidence. This ensures that the recommendation is in line with the best available data, and that the recommendation is not based on ideology, prejudice, or personal preference. This aspect of the nutrition assessment also involves evidence analysis. It is used to ensure that the nutrition interventions being put in place are best for the individual.
An additional aspect of the nutrition care process is the use of counseling and therapy, which can be implemented once the proper dietary plan has been created. Counseling and therapy often begin before the intervention takes place. This ensures that there is a systematic approach to the dietary intervention, including both education regarding the diet and its impact on the individual as well as implementation. A skilled dietitian can create a personalized nutrition intervention plan, incorporating the appropriate foods into the individual's daily life and ensuring that they are consumed in the appropriate quantities and at the appropriate times. Once the personalized nutrition intervention plan is put in place, the nutritionist monitors the progress of the individual as his or her diet is implemented and makes any needed adjustments.
The use of a systematic method of evaluation in the assessment of a client's dietary needs has been proven to increase the success rate of dietary therapies. When using this systematic method of evaluating clients' nutrition needs, it ensures that the recommended dietary products are actually effective in helping the individual achieve his or her goals. This increase in the effectiveness of the dietary product provides a more positive feeling about the diet and reinforces the overall effectiveness of the intervention. All aspects of the nutrition care process are then more easily maintained and improved upon as well.