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Nutrition Informatics Blog

The Pain of Digital Change

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Much like most health professionals, I monitor (or “lurk” if you use present day social media slang) multiple e-mail lists.  I recently began observing the variety of opinions on the usefulness-- or not--of health information technology.  My thinking is that it seems that we are all at a different stage in the adaptation to a life gone digital. One of the points made by one commenter was that you have to “keep your eye on the goal”; if we eventually can deliver better health care (realizing there will be bumps along the way), perhaps use of health information technology will become a routine part of life.  Being somewhat of an optimist, I wondered how long this will take.  Use of other technologies have gained rapid acceptance in the past few decades—or have they?  

A personal example suddenly came to mind:  when my children were growing up, there was a significant focus on “summer reading”.  Being a lover of books, we somehow evolved into what became a tradition of the “Summer Book Store Trip.”  I would pile my children in the car and head to their (or my?) favorite book store.  Back then, the schools would issue a Summer Reading List with/without assignments. Using this list as a starting point, each child would choose a couple books appropriate to their reading ability. Somehow I associated this trip as validation that—summer had begun! Yeah! 

The Summer Book Store Trip this year never occurred—not that I didn’t try.  My first trip with my youngest in tow (getting them all together is more of a challenge as they get older)—left us both empty handed.  The book store, unbeknownst to me—had closed.  Hmm—Plan B—I checked the internet and indeed the next book store I searched for was still open.  We decided to wait until the middle two were both home from college and go en masse. 

The day prior to my daughter returning from college, she received a box from Amazon.com addressed to her.  When she returned home the next day, she immediately opened the box and there—with perfect timing—was her summer reading!  Privately aghast, I waited a few weeks to see what happened next.  A few more deliveries—some from discount ONLINE book stores occurred.  Then my son asked for my Amazon password so he could order his books.  My youngest has a book “swap” loosely coordinated with friends.  So what happened to the tradition I so loved?  I realized this is likely a common occurrence and perhaps that message on the e-mail list nailed the point:  If you are accomplishing your goal, does it matter if it is accomplished via traditional or digital means?  Flash back to the whole summer-reading-book-trip situation:  Was the original intention being accomplished?  Yes—actually more so, as my children became adept at finding the best price and not waiting for the whole group to get together!  Yes—as I still find them tucked in a chair, a couch, a hammock or in bed—book in hand, reading. 

So now back to health information technology—what should we as dietitians do as health care goes digital?  Read about what others are doing.  Think outside the box and discover new more efficient ways to improve health—and realize that some disruption is going to occur.  Participate in a Challenge.  Realize that the change in health care is in “fast forward” mode.  Discuss with colleagues what changes are occurring and how we can work together—and most importantly—keep your eye on the goal: improved nutrition in health and health care.


Much to my chagrin, our electronic charting system went up without the physicians! Therefore, many of us were asked to use only electronic charting and the physicians were using only paper charts--it has made for a terrible lack of communication. As I have used electronic charting before much more successfully, I am looking forward to the day (they say it's soon) when the physicians are required to use the electronic charting also. I have seen electronic charting work successfully but this is totally frustrating.
Posted by: Mary Hiebert, RD, LD at 7/5/2012 3:31 PM


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