How digital health has transformed dietetic care in County Durham and Darlington
Digital health has transformed the way dietetic care can be delivered to patients in care homes. As a dietitian I have experienced first-hand the benefit of using digital health for treating undernutrition within the County Durham and Darlington area.
From experience, one of my main priorities when rolling out digital health to care homes is to get stakeholders engaged. It is worth investing the time at the beginning and getting this right otherwise more time is spent unpicking the problems further down the line.
In order to do this, these would be my recommendations:
- Identify the key people within the home, this is usually the manager and admin
- Understand who has access to computers and the internet
- Explain the benefit digital health can have for their residents
- Be present to support them in the early stages
- Provide opportunities for feedback
I have been surprised by the outcomes that have been reported from care home staff. I had expected that although care home staff would appreciate a dietitian would be reacting to the information about the residents in a timelier manner, this may have caused additional workload by gathering and inputting resident’s health indicators. However we found all the homes said using digital health had a positive effect of delivering an improvement in nutritional standards. Managers also told me that they were now more aware of the weights of their residents and would be more likely to act on any changes and investigate why the weight change had occurred.
Digital health is a new way of working for dietitians and can mean reduced face to face contact but potentially more regular telephone consultations. This doesn’t always sit easily with dietitians who traditionally provide face to face consultations. There’s always the risk dietitians could feel digital health may reduce the quality of the consultation. However within the area, homes felt better supported as a result of digital health. They had confidence that a dietitian would contact them if any concerns were highlighted and many reported that the relationship with their dietitians had improved. It will be interesting to see if this leads to fewer calls to the GP with concerns about a resident’s weight loss.
One of the drivers for the development of digital health is to improve the capacity and efficiency of the dietitian but this shouldn’t be at the cost of the care home staff. When digital health is explained to care homes one of their main concerns is that it will increase their workload which is already stretched. From my experience in the north east, this has not been the case.
Despite the positive feedback and awards there is always room for improvement and very constructive ideas have been put forward by the care home staff that will greatly improve our system.
The information that the care homes enter on to the portal can now be pulled through to electronic patient records which will will create efficiencies within the health economy and also means GP’s can see what is happening. Imagine if they could register patients themselves and a dietitian or another health care professional could review the data and provide treatment much more quickly?
Digital health has been shown to be of benefit for both dietitians and also staff at care homes, which ultimately means that patients receive a better quality of care which will produce better outcomes for them, why are we not embracing this technology?