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Nutrition Informatics Blog



Get on Board With Technology

Get on Board With Technology

By Vicki Hope, RD, LD 

I am a newly credentialed RD, but also a “career changer,” coming from a technology background. In my previous career, I programmed back-office IBM mid-range systems (billing and advertising) and traveled around the country training customers on new software/hardware and writing documentation and creating ad/document layout and designs. I think all of these skills help me in my new career as a RD, but in my search for work, this does not seem to count for much. To me, this signals a problem in the field of dietetics. We sure do not want to find out too late that we need these skills, or we will find ourselves without a job.

I have a dream to have a private practice in childhood weight management. I changed careers specifically to do my part to slow/reverse the overweight/obesity trend in this country (or at least my area). However, if I do not get on board with how children and their families communicate now (online counseling, Skype™, and social media—blogs, twitter, Pinterest, iPhone apps, etc), my counseling will appear “old-fashioned” and unacceptable. It will become more difficult to keep my clients engaged in their treatment. But how do we use new technology confidently, so that we do not ruin a career in a matter of minutes by violating confidentiality or some other legality? I think fear keeps many RDs from jumping in.

In private or clinical practice, continuity of care is critical. Communicating effectively and securely with clients, clients’ physicians, or other health care team members must happen. If e-mail software already exists that is secure, HIPAA compliant, I want to get it, learn how to use it, and then use it. Also, before I make a big software purchase for my business to keep my client information up to date, I want to learn about other patient management software (dietetics specific or customizable to dietetics) that integrates with other hospital/physician software. I think the problem right now is that much of this new technology/software is in development and not fully implemented, so it is difficult to decide when and where to jump in and commit your time and money.

In the few years it took me to earn my RD credentials, my skills in technology became somewhat dated. Changes in technology seem to come every 3 years or sooner. If we, as a profession, do not incorporate ongoing technology education and integration into our practice, I think we are done.

I think that technology is important to RDs and not a waste of time, but when we talk about it, we need to use specifics. Does an RD need to know how to program? Probably not, but that little bit of HTML or XML does help with Web site development. Most RDs already are proficient in basic e-mail, texting, and MS Office products (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), but what about contact software (constant contact) or social media? Each hospital seems to use different software for their electronic medical records (EMR), if they use EMR at all. What software do we need to learn? To me, the key is building that relationship with the team leader—the physician—and working with software that will facilitate improved communication and an improved relationship, while at the same time maintaining the necessary security and protection of client information.

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Comments (1):
4/20/2012 7:21:10 AM by Jim

I agree that first and foremost, client information has to be securely maintained. Modern means of communication and social media I think still have the element of risk when dealing with confidential information, but can be of assistance to provide more generalised/non specific nutritional information to clients.

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