How RDNs Champion Good Health and Support Chronic Condition Management
On March 11, during Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, we are proud to honor those who have made it their mission to help people live fuller lives by teaching them to make healthier choices.
It can be surprising to learn just how often registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) touch our lives in so many important ways. Their work shows up in parts of everyday life, but can also have widespread effects across the globe.
The Many Hats of a Registered Dietician Nutritionist
What are some of the ways RDNs help shape and improve population health?
- Working in schools creating meal plans that promote healthy eating habits.
- Performing research in food labs and with pharmaceutical companies to make sure common consumer products are safe and healthy.
- Providing aid to war-torn areas and helping organizations like the UN design refugee food programs.
- And much more!
One of the most important population health challenges RDNs take relates to helping people with chronic illnesses manage these often debilitating diseases.
Chronic Disease in American and the RDNs Role
U.S. Chronic Disease facts from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
- Six in ten adults have a chronic disease
- Four in ten adults have two or more
- Chronic illness is the leading cause of death and disability
Whether patients are battling diabetes, renal failure, heart disease, or other chronic diseases, condition management is a full-time job. In some instances, limited access to health experts like RDNs can create additional barriers to these patients’ wellness.
While much of chronic condition management happens at home, patients often see value by working with health coaches. Routine meetings with nutrition specialists like RDNs can help set chronically ill patients up for success. However, RDNs cannot be everywhere at all times.
To bridge gaps between home care and office visits, RDNs and other condition management specialists need patient engagement technology that can adjust to their busy schedules. Condition management tools with a high concentration on patient engagement can help RDNs stay better connected to the people they support. It is also necessary for these tools to offer features that can help RDNs effortlessly coordinate care with primary physicians.
How Condition Management Tools Support Care Continuity
Using a condition management app, RDNs can extend their impact beyond the walls of their office or hospital. The most useful apps will have features like:
- Built-in task reminders
- Opportunities to set and track health goals
- Links to virtual support groups
- Links to health content
To help improve communication between RDNs and physicians, a condition management app should also support documentation of patient progress. Clear patient documentation can be a high-value commodity RDNs can offer primary care givers.
Documenting Patient Progress Through Condition Management Tools
A key responsibility of RDNs is the continued tracking of patient diet and health at all stages of condition management. In most cases, dietitians work closely with nurses to track patient details like weight gains/losses, appetite levels, changes in medication, and any newly reported health issues.
In addition to general care data, RDN documentation responsibilities often include ongoing assessments of nutritional health. Detailed documentation provided by RDNs helps determine care aspects such as:
- If health issues are indeed nutrition related
- What underlying problems might be causing nutritional deficiencies
- Best ways to approach problems
- How dietary intervention may help
The information shared between RDNs and attending clinicians helps inform an effective care plan and is critical to achieving gap-free care coordination. With a clean record of patient progress both RDNs and clinicians can provide higher quality patient care. Documentation becomes even more effective when health information is shared in a single system capable of integration across multiple care settings.
Partnering with RDNs
Reducing death and disabilities related to chronic illnesses is a key issue for not only RDNs, but healthcare providers nationwide. The roles of an RDN vary, but they can’t be everywhere for everyone. Dietary experts like RDNs also need tools that facilitate the seamless sharing of patient data with primary physicians.
MEDHOST believes the same care coordination tools that allow hospitals to easily track and share patient data can hold equal value for RDNs and other dietary experts. To support those who assess, plan, and coach dietary treatments, MEDHOST has developed condition management and care coordination tools that help providers save time, work with greater precision, and promote better outcomes.