Dietitians in the NHS are overworked and under resourced. How can they drive efficiencies and increase productivity to save thousands of lives a year in England?
The problem that we face in England
With 64% of the adult population in the England either overweight or obese, and poor diet the second highest risk factor to premature death, and nutrition related diseases accounting for up to 15% of the annual NHS budget, you can say that we are currently in the middle of a nutrition crisis.
Dietitians in the NHS are uniquely trained to solve these problems, but making up less than 1% of the NHS workforce, they face an unwinnable battle against the tsunami of nutrition related cases that are currently hitting the NHS.
72% work over their contracted hours, there are only 0.05 WTE dietitians per 1,000 occupied days, and dietetic appointments have the longest waiting time of all AHPs (Allied Health Professions) in the NHS.
Digitising Interventions - reducing referral rates
But dietitians are fighting back. A team of specialist gastroenterology community dietitians in Somerset, England used a series of webinars to increase patient understanding of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and also the Low FODMAP diet which is used to treat this condition.
The videos are in a format similar to the advice you'd get if you saw a dietitian, and at between 45 and 60 minutes, about the same time as a face to face (ideal) consultation.
The videos were uploaded and hosted on Youtube for free, and hosted in a public website using a popular and simple to use content management system called Wordpress which requires no coding skills - patientwebinars.co.uk. Once they had been shared in this way, it allowed GPs and healthcare professionals to simply direct patients to the website without the need for referral letters, allowing them to watch the information at a time and place of their choosing.
The results of this project were remarkable:
Reduction of referral rates to the department by a staggering 44%
Largest number of attendees came from the 65-74 old age group - underlining that age is not a barrier for digital technology.
More than 95% of patients said they would recommend them to friends.
Digitising Interventions - making it personalised
Patient webinars is a first step to digitising an intervention, in this case the initial first line advice that is provided to new patients diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
What if we can go further and make the intervention automatically personalised to each patient? It's widely evidenced that personalised nutrition advice leads to much higher rates of behaviour change and adherence with higher outcomes. (reference)
What if dietitians can customise these personalised dietary interventions for any nutrition disease, and shareable in web portal across departments, enabling them to be signposted just in the same way as the patient webinars?
What if the interventions are distributed and personalised to patients using a mobile app?
This is all now possible using our new product Smorg which we have now launched to the NHS market. With Smorg, you can digitally transform all aspects of dietary interventions including food diaries, meal plans, quizzes, and structured education content.
For any nutrition condition. All in a few clicks, no coding required.
We think this will be transformative for dietetic departments, building on the success of Patient Webinars to make interventions more personalised and scalable, increasing productivity of dietetic departments by reducing referral rates.
If you are an NHS dietitian and want to find out more about our product, and trial it in your department for free, please just click the link below and we'll be in touch!