I recognized an opportunity and became an advocate to use a food and nutrition system in the food and nutrition department within our hospital over 12 years ago. At that time, my vision was to have a software system do the repetitive clerical tasks of the diet office while our employees moved to the bedside to provide a personal touch to improve patient satisfaction. From the first software training session, I was hooked on what is now considered “Nutrition Informatics”.
The American Dietetic Association defines Nutrition Informatics as “the retrieval, organization, storage, and optimum use of information, data, and knowledge for food and nutrition related problem-solving and decision making. Informatics is supported by the use of information standards, processes, and technology”.
What food and nutrition professional doesn’t fill their day solving problems and making decisions? Now, you may think, as I once did, that informatics is more about technology and having computer skills. Fortunately, (at least for me), technology is the tool in informatics meant to complement and support you.
Because of my informatics “addiction”, I was compelled to complete the AMIA-ADA-OHSU 10 x 10 Biomedical Informatics Course. This course opened my eyes to the depth and variety of ways health information and technology are being used today and will be used in the future. I believe now, more than ever, that food and nutrition professionals need to embrace informatics as a core competency. Nutrition Informatics is poised to grow and will need your knowledge and support to be effective in your environments. You may ask why? Consider this:
- You need to align with the strategic initiatives of your organization: Food and nutrition professionals need to use and interpret data and report information that supports regulatory compliance, patient satisfaction, performance improvement, and cost control. Food and nutrition systems, such as Vision Software Technologies, provide essential tools, solutions, and reporting to meet your organizations’ requirements in a timely and effective manner.
- Patient and public safety will continue to dominate the media headlines: Do you know what resources are available to you to monitor food safety and security? How are you getting food ingredient and allergen updates? How about food-medication interactions? Creating efficient processes around safety will be a growing area of nutrition informatics.
- Health care is poised to take a more preventative focus: The public will be more participatory and engaged in their care. As such, they will turn to Personal Health Records (PHR), telehealth, mobile apps, social media, and persuasive technologies for health information and to interact with health care providers. Do you know how this will affect practice and what the potential ethical and privacy issues are? The new cool technology is patient-centric. Can you think of using it in dietary/foodservice?
- Electronic health records (EHR): If your organization has not moved to an EHR, they are probably taking steps to do so. Food and Nutrition professionals need to be ready to evaluate their workflows and processes and interpret them for an electronic format with the goal of making performance and patient care better. Do have knowledge of food allergy standards, diet order syntax, HL7, or the International Dietetic and Nutrition Terminology (IDNT)? Do you know how information will flow to you and through the EHR?
- Web based Platforms will be more prolific within the healthcare setting: These allow the user to retrieve and exchange information with ease between people, hospitals, and departments. Understanding the essence of a dietary and food software that is web based and what goes into the configuration of the web will be integral in setting up systems in the future. The platform of this decade is not going to be built around controlling hardware resources and rich UI. Instead, it is going to be built around access to community, collaboration, and content for hospital-increased efficiencies, increasing safety and integration of the hospital disciplines.
There are probably many other reasons to improve your informatics skills. What steps have you taken to improve your informatics knowledge? What newsletters, blogs, websites, or resources do you find helpful? How are you using informatics now?
To the today and beyond,
AMIA – ADA – OHSU 10×10 Biomedical Informatics Course – Nutrition Informatics unit
by Donna Quirk, MBA RD LD, Clinical Nutrition Manager, Lexington Medical Center