The American Dietetic association has called the advances in technology in the health sector as Telemedicine and defines it as “The practise of healthcare delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of medical data, and education using audio, video, or data communication”(Dina Aronson, 2007). This statement illustrates the vast functions and uses information technology plays in all sectors of health including Nutrition.
Information Technology’s contribution to education and research in Dietetics
A dietician must continuously re-educate them self in order to remain up to date with advances in research and new technology. In order to achieve this they must have access to a range of technologies. The internet and multimedia provide dieticians with magazines; journals and newsletters which help them stay informed about trends in nutrition which will in turn allow them to advise their clients more efficiently about nutritional issues (Human Resources and development Canada 2007). Multi -media plays a large role in educating not only professional but also large portion of the public this type of information can be target at population at risk from certain conditions for example television advertisements aimed at young woman about increasing the intake of folic acid. This type of technology is an efficient way for dieticians to inform the public about nutritional information which will in turn improve the awareness and health of the population.
In a cross sectional study carried out on a random sample of Dieticians from the British Dietetic association database. A questionnaire was distributed to determine dietician’s access to the internet and their views of the resources as a means of health and nutritional information. The results revealed that 66% of the respondents had access to the internet at work, with 39% using the internet once or more a week. The reported uses of the internet were for searching health information, researching and communication ( Kirk, 2001) . This illustrates the role internet plays in the professional world of dietetics, however this study was conducted seven years ago since then dramatic advances have been made in the use of the internet, such as the introduction of broadband and wireless internet access. This has undouthedly double the number of people who access the internet.
Table 1: Dieticians use of the Internet at work
Reason percentage % (n=104)
Work-related research 83
Searching for nutritional information 70
Searching for health information 58
Communication with colleagues 51
Personal research 6
* Percentages do not add up to 100%, as some respondents ticked
more than one category.
( Kirk, 2001)
Figures of internet use in 1998 showed that from a world population of 6 billion there were 150 million internet users which is approximately 2.5 percent of the world population (Langford 2000). Figure 3 illustrates internet usage by the world in 2007. It estimates 1.1 billion people use the internet in a population of 6.5 billion in 2007 (Brown, 2007), which is 16.9 percent of the world population. This is almost a seven fold increase in internet users compared to figures from 1998.
Fig 2: Internet use by the World
The technology of modern times has integrated interactive media into nutritional education. The introduction of Computer assisted instruction (CAI) and computer assisted learning (CAL) has complemented and improved conventional methods of teaching. A study performed on microbiology student illustrated the success of CAL. It found the student who used the software for microbiology tutorials scored higher in tests than students who had conventional teaching methods. Also another study found that CAL used in science and clinical study significantly decreased the number of hours students had in lectures, also in test performed 1 month into the study the students who used the CAL scores improved by 12 points in comparisons to the student who didn’t use the software (Shah, 1999). Undoubtedly this type of teaching methods will play a large role in the area of education in the Dietetics profession.
Table. 2 The application and outcomes of using CAL and CAI in the education and health care profession
Clinical skills development
Higher clinical skills test scores
More confidence in clinical performance
More clinical objectives met
Testing skills assessment
Decision making for more cost effective operations
improved decision-making ability
improved cost effectiveness
Information Technology influence on the Delivery of Nutritional information:
Information technology has undoubtedly made an immense change in the way nutritional information is delivered by a dietician or a nutritionist. The introduction of various programs on computers has helped improve numerous areas and sectors of the dietetic profession.
Microsoft word is one piece of software which every health care profession needs. This software can be used to write up reports on client’s profiles such as health history, dietary needs, goals, contact information, diet plans, writing recommendation for clients and much more. Also having all these files on a computer reduces clutter, and can be retrieved with the touch of a button which can help save time and reduce stress. Other Microsoft software which are of great value to a dietician are excel and PowerPoint. These tools help a dietician to provide a more efficient and professional service to the customers. PowerPoint is software that produces a presentation on the computer which can be projected to an audience. This software is extremely useful for educating people on nutritional information. While excel can be used to analyses information and create graph and charts to display information in a coherent and understandable manner. They can also use the information from tables such as nutrition analysis to understand the nutritional value of food products they can then use this information to adapt diets for specific groups (Aronson 2007).
A more recent development in Information technology is the rise in the use of software packages which are designed for nutritional analyses. One such software is Win diets which is a package that provides Nutritional information for both a professional dieticians and the public it also aids in education as there is specific software which is designed for college and school use. The software Contains databases which can analyses energy expenditure, nutrient analysis, recipes and cooking instructions which include nutrient analysis, Access wizards to query information, produces numerous diet analysis spreadsheets and the users or clients can use information on how to prepare the dishes as well as producing calculations on the nutrient loss during cooking (Wise 2008). The program takes into account every aspect of the work of a dietician from education to producing individual meal plans or nutrient analyses research. This is just one of the many programs on the market which have been designed in order to aid the work of Dieticians (Wise, 2004).
Fig 1: Sample of the win-diets program features
Information Technology contribution to the marketing of nutritional information
Information technology takes issues such as time management, costs, and client retention and helps improve them. With internet access you have the freedom and resources to educate and reach people all over the world. This form of Information technology also gives one the choice to work from home at a pace that suits them.
Time management is one subject that every working individual has to contend with. Using E-mail to contact clients can help reduce the number of personal contact visit which they receive, as an online food diary could be set up which the client can fill out and then E-mail the information back. The Dietician can then generate a nutritional analysis and send it back. At the next visit they could discuss recommendations and meal plans. Through using this method of online treatment the client stays motivated and engaged without occupying too much time from the dietician, thus improving time efficiency (Aronson 2007).
Client retention is a major concern of Dietician particularly private practitioners, generally clients stop visiting their dietician after only a few visits checking in online with their dietician saves them money and time while reducing the need for personal visits. Nowadays many private practise Dieticians and consultant Dieticians have personal websites which their clients can visit and find BMI calculators, body weight calculators, self nutritional assessments and a great deal more. The internet increase choice and methods of practise which reach a larger portion of the population (Holli, et al 2003).
The mergers of Dietetics and information technology have certainly changed the way nutritional information is accessed and delivered. The use of information Technology has transformed every aspect of Dietetics from research and education to how the professional delivers and markets their profession. The use of thousands of health related website with nutritional news, sound eating advice, and helpful recipes along with specially designed nutritional database such as win-diets it’s clear that information technology has played a massive role in improving the efficiency and productivity in all sectors of the Dietetic profession. It’s a foregone conclusion that information Technology will indeed play a massive role in future trends of nutrition information and research.
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Written by annie2009
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