By Colleen D. Webb, MS, RDN
Telehealth visits could exceed 1 billion by the end of 2020, with 900 million related to COVID-19. Telehealth is the exchange of healthcare information remotely and electronically to improve the health of a patient.
Here’s some good news for registered dietitians nutritionists (RDNs) and other healthcare professionals using telehealth to counsel IBD patients.
In 2019 the American Journal of Gastroenterology published an article titled “A Randomized Controlled Trial of TELEmedicine for Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (TELE-IBD)”. It was the largest randomized controlled trial of telemedicine for IBD in North America and the second largest in the world. Nearly 350 participants were randomized to a control group or one of two telemedicine groups. The trial lasted one year.
Here’s what they found:
– A decrease in patient-reported disease activity and improved quality of life in all patients (control and telehealth groups)
– A decrease in hospitalizations in the participants in the telemedicine group as compared to the control group
In my experience, some patients and professionals are wary of using telehealth for IBD patients. That’s why we’re sharing these findings.
There are lots of potential pros for RDNs and others counseling IBD patients remotely. Here’s a list that you can reference the next time you’re met with hesitation:
- Let IBD patients work with you from the privacy of their home. Traveling to an appointment can be scary for someone with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis since many can’t be far from a bathroom.
- Improve the accuracy of a nutrition assessment and diet recall since patients at home can easily access their current supplements, medications and foods. A single ingredient can trigger IBD symptoms, so RDNs need specific information.
- Allow for more convenient follow-up appointments and RDN support between visits. Consistent care leads to better patient adherence, education, engagement and reported outcomes. Plus, it lets RDNs detect problems early on.
- Give patients a convenient way to receive important nutrition advice. (Who’s not on their phone most of the day?)
- Connect patients to healthcare providers who specialize in this complicated disease.
- Allow RDNs to analyze and comment on food-symptom diaries in real time.
For those of you who use telehealth in your practice? What do you like or dislike about it?