We have all experienced the tedious process of setting up an appointment to see your doctor, PT, RDN, or other healthcare provider. You call their office to schedule an appointment and often have to wait weeks or even months to see them. You take time off work to drive there, you sit in the waiting room, then you wait in the patient room. You see your provider for roughly eight minutes and then you are done (1). The entire experience can take an average of two hours depending on how long it takes you to drive there or how long you have to wait (2).
Health care is traditionally structured as a provider-centric service, meeting the needs of the hospitals and doctors. Yet, there is increasing interest by patients and providers alike to provide health care that is more patient-centric, where patients are treated as customers who are interested in convenient and effective healthcare services (3). Introducing telemedicine! A method for providing healthcare services via technology such as video chat, telephonic, emails, or instant chats. This trend began as a means to provide services to people in rural areas with limited access to hospitals and providers. Today telemedicine has gained popularity as a convenient and prefered way to receive healthcare, solving many of the problems with in-person appointments.
Telemedicine is shaking up how service is provided, shifting the focus from treating the sick to being an active integrated part of individuals’ health and wellbeing. In other words, telemedicine is a great opportunity to implement preventative services and encourage patients to be involved in their health! Nutrimedy, a telenutrition startup out of Boston is passionate about the promise telenutrition holds in providing a much needed shift in our healthcare system. Karolina Starczak, the CEO of Nutrimedy says,
“Telenutrition along with other forms of telemedicine allow for improved access at a reduced cost to patients. As we embrace technology, we are not only helping reduce some of the barriers that patients have to overcome with in-person appointments, but we are also helping them understand how to fit health and wellness services into their day-to-day life. We have embraced the need for preventive and proactive care for decades, but with the help of telehealth we can actually create a less intimidating environment where patients finally feel like a member of the healthcare team and are encouraged to engage in their health”
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are qualified nutrition experts to provide telenutrition services (4), yet society tends to not know who RDNs are or even how to get an appointment with one. This leaves people vulnerable to trusting nutrition guidance from unqualified personnel. You wouldn’t trust your carpenter to give you medical advice, right? That’s because people know and trust the credibility of MDs. Unlike MDs, RDNs are less known and less accessible, leaving people at the will of any person who gives information about nutrition, regardless of their qualifications. This has been an apparent limitation for Nutrimedy as they utilized RDNs to engage patients in their diets and health.
“One of our biggest hurdles has actually not been around the video component, but spreading the word about why we are committed to having RDNs as the nutrition experts on our platform. We have found that many people don’t currently understand the training and education of RDNs, so we dedicate time to helping spread the word. Our goal is to make it as easy and seamless for the average person to access an RDN as it currently is to purchase sessions at a fitness studio. And who knows, maybe in the future with every tenth spin class you get a free session with Nutrimedy,” said Starczak.
With telenutrition, RDNs have the potential to reach more individuals, making them a common and well known provider in society. Even if the patient is aware of what RDNs do and is interested in scheduling a counseling session with one, very few know how to go about doing so.
“What I have always found surprising is that when I ask people I meet how they would go about scheduling a visit with an RDN, most can’t tell me. Navigating the healthcare landscape and coordinating services can be disturbingly complex, but with Nutrimedy patients can connect to nutrition experts right through their phone or other device. It saves time and finally makes consults with an RDN simple, so that anyone can receive personalized video counseling and stay connected in between sessions all in one app.”
Currently, Medicare Part B will reimburse for approved services that are provided via telecommunication (5). Since nutrition counseling is covered under Medicare Part B, these nutrition counseling services will be reimbursed even if provided via telenutrition. In addition, more than thirty states have passed laws that require private insurance companies to cover telemedicine services (6). As telemedicine services become increasingly recognized as legitimate healthcare services, the use of and reimbursement for these services will continue to grow. Telemedicine has the potential to revolutionize our healthcare system, save money, and engage patients in their health to create lasting preventative changes.
- M.D, P. W. C. For New Doctors, 8 Minutes Per Patient. Well (1369886512). Available at: https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/for-new-doctors-8-minutes-per-patient/. (Accessed: 3rd October 2017)
- Paying for Health Care with Time | HMS. Available at: https://hms.harvard.edu/news/paying-health-care-time?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hms-twitter-general. (Accessed: 3rd October 2017)
- The Ultimate Telemedicine Guide | What Is Telemedicine? eVisit® Telemedicine Solution Available at: https://evisit.com/what-is-telemedicine/. (Accessed: 25th September 2017)
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Practice Tips: Telehealth Challenges and Opportunities. February 2017.
- Telehealth | Medicare.gov. Available at: https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/telehealth.html. (Accessed: 2nd October 2017)
- More than 30 States force Private Insurance to reimburse for telehealth. Available at: http://www.securetelehealth.com/private-insurance.html. (Accessed: 2nd October 2017)