NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Home health care is a growing trend with more than 5 million patients cared for that way annually.

It’s a great way to get well, but CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports one aspect of home health care is often overlooked — nutrition.

When Monika McComb was still in the hospital, she knew the road to recovery could be a challenge as she managed two chronic diseases, but one key aspect she didn’t consider was her nutrition.

“I was really, really weak. You know, I couldn’t even hardly walk with a cane,” she said.

McComb was malnourished, an often overlooked issue for patients. As many as one in three patients in home health care are malnourished or have nutrient deficiencies that put their health and their recovery at risk. That’s why McComb got a detailed home care nutrition plan.

But many homebound patients are elderly and may have difficulty chewing and eating the kind of nutrient-rich diet that would help them recover. That’s where easy-to-swallow nutritional drinks can help.

In fact, a new study found that when nutritional drinks and education were provided to malnourished home health care patients, they were 18% less likely to be admitted to re-admitted to the hospital within 90 days.

Suela Sulo, Ph.D., is a health outcomes researcher with Abbott.

“Through identifying the patients with malnutrition risk, feeding them with the right nutritional drinks, you are increasing their chances of recovering faster, not going back to the hospital or not going to the hospital in the first place,” Sulo said.

For the study, over 1,500 patients were followed for 90 days. Patients identified as malnourished or at-risk for malnutrition were put on a nutrition care program, including nutritional drinks, and were also taught how to maintain good nutrition.

Gretchen VanDerBosch, R.D., is the lead registered dietitian for Advocate Health Care.

“Because they’re educated, they actually continue their supplements and start it back up, and their outcome is so much improved. They have more strength. They heal quicker. They have less falls. They have less re-admissions,” VanDerBosch said.

While every patient’s nutritional needs and ability to eat are going to be different, this study suggests that a good nutrition plan should be part of all home health care.