Powering Human Care Reaching Further with Telenutrition with Julie Branham

Telenutrition: Top Benefits and How to Overcome Challenges

Published on : 6/24/23
  • Telehealth provides patients and healthcare providers with the convenience and accommodation necessary to continue healthcare services regardless of distance, health or mobility. The telehealth category has expanded to include telenutrition, which allows registered dietitians to consult with patients, assess their nutrition needs and provide dietary advice via telecommunication. But can telenutrition deliver the same level of service as in-person interactive care? In episode 5 of the Powering Human Care podcast, Julie Branham, vice president, clinical nutrition, Sodexo Healthcare, addresses this concern. 

    After the COVID-19 pandemic was deemed a public health emergency, healthcare providers gained more freedom to implement telehealth programs and get reimbursed for telehealth services. This yielded several benefits:

    • Patients and registered dietitians can be in any setting while connecting via audiovisual telecommunication 
    • Patients gain uninterrupted access to nutritional health care 
    • Registered dietitians have the ability to consult with more patients during the day 
    • Inadequate staffing can be resolved with registered dietitians in neighboring states or across the country  


    Barriers to Universal Telenutrition 

    Despite these advantages, barriers to telenutrition programs persist, such as patients’ internet access, low technology skill and unfamiliarity with telenutrition platforms. One of the primary issues limiting universal adaptation of telenutrition is the perception that without face-to-face interaction, patient outcomes will suffer.  


    Good News 

    Branham highlights recent studies that suggest otherwise: 

    • At a hospital in Pennsylvania, discharged heart failure patients who received follow-up phone calls from registered dietitians were less likely to need readmission to the hospital 
    • Patients are required to undergo nutrition counseling before bariatric surgery, and those whose nutrition counseling took place via telenutrition lost more weight than the patients whose nutrition counseling was in person 
    • In a pilot program at a hospital, Sodexo’s registered dietitians are conducting nutrition-focused physical exams via telenutrition to validate and compare the accuracy of telenutrition versus in-person assessments, and early results indicate that the program is faring well  

    To further ensure the success of telenutrition programs, Branham says registered dietitians should develop or hone skills such as relationship building, establishing and building rapport, paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, and improving presentation skills. Branham says a number of Sodexo’s registered dietitians already possess these skills and are consummate telenutrition professionals.  
    Powering Human Care with Telenutrition with Julie Branham With new registered dietitians entering the workforce, armed with persistence and ingenuity, lingering barriers to telenutrition can be resolved so that healthcare providers and patients adopt telenutrition universally. Tune in to the latest podcast episode to hear more of Branham’s advice on ensuring the success of a telenutrition program. 

    Listen to the podcast