Telegram, Telephone, and Yes, Telenutrition!
By Peggy Turner, MS,
one would deny that health care is changing. You used to have to go to your
doctor’s office if you were sick or had a problem that needed attention. Thanks
to modern technology, all that has changed.
The prefix tele is defined as acombiningform,meaning“distant,”especially“transmission over a distance,”usedintheformationofcompoundwords, such
astelegraph.1 As we
become more and more global, so does the health care that is available. Physicians
are not the only ones who can provide needed services. Dietitians are finding
ways to offer services as well.
I was pleasantly surprised when I did a search in
the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics and found an article entitled Telehealth—Opportunities and
Pitfalls.2 It points out that this is still a pretty new area and
many questions still need answered. The article also explains the differences
between telehealth, telepractice, and telemedicine. In fact, visit this page on
eatright.org under the Members Tab, http://www.eatright.org/Members/content.aspx?id=7341
(cut and paste link into your browser), to find definitions, FAQs, and
information about requirements for Medicare medical nutrition therapy (MNT)
It is hard to bring up the topic of telehealth/telemedicine/telepractice
without also thinking about reimbursement and licensure issues. Imagine how
excited I was when I looked at the program for the Food &
Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) this year and saw that Mary Ann
Hodorowicz, MBA, RD, LDN, CDE, CEC, and Joanne Shearer, MS, RD, LN, CDE, will present
a session entitled The Dollars and Sense of Telehealth: Designing Programs to
Maximize Effectiveness. I have no doubt
that these two experts will help all of us understand the implications of
licensure laws and coverage/reimbursement as they apply to providing these
exciting new services.
But FNCE is not the only place where we can find
answers to our burning questions. I was pleased when I looked in the Evidence
Analysis Library, and you guessed it, under “T” telenutrition was the first
topic listed. What is the effectiveness
of telenutrition interventions and counseling provided by an RD came in
with a Grade I level of evidence. You cannot get much better than that. Check
out the Evidence
Analysis Library for more details.
Are dietitians providing telenutrition? They are
at the VA in
New Mexico, as well as other VAs across the country. Using technology known
as the Tandberg system, dietitians are able to connect to community-based
outpatient clinics and provide nutrition services for weight loss, weight gain,
diabetes, high lipids, and much, much more. Now veterans living in rural or
outlying areas can have access to nutrition services. Not only do they benefit from
nutrition services, but they save time and gas miles as well. Sounds like a win-win
It does not take much of an imagination to think
of other ideas of how dietitians and diet technicians registered can take
advantage of the technology to bring nutrition front and center. Corporate
dietitians can take their message to any place their company has offices. Wellness
dietitians can use the technology to provide anything from cooking
demonstrations to informational sessions. Researchers can use the technology to
communicate and share information in large multicenter studies, and the list
goes on and on.
As an educator, I was excited to find out that my
university is gearing up for more telehealth education and services on campus.
I now have a Polycom®
app on my iPad, which by itself may not sound that exciting, but when you
consider the fact that I can connect my iPad to a projector, it literally means
that I can connect with other Polycom users and bring experts into my classroom
via my iPad. Now try “teleing” me
that is not exciting!
Dictionary.com. Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tele.
Accessed June 21, 2012.
Busey JC, Michael P. Telehealth—opportunities and pitfalls. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008:108:1296-1301.