It's a Health IT World, Whether You Know It or Not
Here's something you might not know about informatics: in the modern world, pretty much everybody does it. Perhaps as a nutrition and dietetics professional you do not realize you do, but you do.
For instance, do you work in a clinical setting? The Nutrition Care Process is integrated into Electronic Health Records. Do you work in education? Twitter is changing your classroom. How about research? Think it takes 17 years for research to reach practitioner anymore? See how innovation can help nudge bench to bedside.
If you work in foodservice, inventory management systems and diet office systems — and even spreadsheets — are improving efficiency and saving money. In population and community health settings, electronic data — the information revolution — can help us learn how to analyze and use data to improve nutrition care of entire populations. If you've ever thought of making your own app — and who hasn't — here is something to think about.
How will you use what is becoming known as patient-generated data? The truth is, informatics is a terrific way to leverage a "problem" at your workplace into a solution.
The Future of Health IT
Health IT has been adopted at a dizzying pace in the U.S. In seven years, EHR adoption has progressed from single digits to almost full adoption in non-federal U.S. hospitals.
No one-size-fits all exists in health IT. While the focus in the past was primarily on the adoption of EHRs in the U.S., the next frontier is health IT certification. Use of Health IT standards is now mandated for health care delivery and quality reporting in the U.S. Nutrition is included in those mandated standards. Academy members have helped develop health IT standards in HL7 since 2009, and have exceptional leaders in this area.
"Data follow the patient (or interoperability)" is the mantra of health care today, at the hands of health IT adoption. Consumer-driven health care is here to stay. "Patient engagement" has been a hallmark of health IT adoption. Encouraging patients to download and use their own digital data (and share it with nutritionists) — help improves health care. In fact, the Academy signed on to the Blue Button Pledge.
Don't Get Overwhelmed
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the task of integrating the right tools and concepts to support nutrition care in your setting. But you don't have to be a mechanic to drive your car, right? Start small and realize you do not have to be an expert in informatics to make an impact. Health IT tools and innovations improve our practice if they are incorporated into practice.
Begin with the end in mind. If you touch nutrition data, think about what you are trying to measure. Every Academy member has the capability of pushing for reimbursement of our services. When nutrition data are coded using now-mandated clinical terminology, it can be pulled for electronic Clinical Quality Measures. Regardless of your size or place, you can better measure improvements (or lack thereof) across time … as long as you measure it properly.
Lindsey Hoggle, MS, RDN, PMP, is director of Nutrition Informatics at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics where she advocates for nutrition inclusion in health information technology standards, regulations and terminology.