Abstract

Background Technology use in digital health tools has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many in-office patient care services. Although healthcare practices have adopted several technologies, they remain surrounded by a saturated increase in consumer-based wearables and smartphone applications. As a result, attitudes and acceptability toward integrating these technologies for patient care are evolving. Digital health tools is an umbrella term including several technologies utilized among health care providers for the purpose of patient care. The inclusion of digital health tools by Registered Dietitian Nutritionists’ (RDNs) in practice provides a more robust and personalized approach to patients and their health needs. Reasons for decisions about incorporating digital health tools into the RDN practice setting are limited in the professional literature. Methods An exploratory cross-sectional survey design was used. Professionals working as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) were recruited utilizing a snowball sampling approach among several practice settings. Survey compilation included a literature review, identifying and utilizing two surveys otherwise used for different purposes and target audiences. Data collection consists of a 2-step process with a survey pilot test and distribution of a final survey administered via Qualtrics. Data analysis was conducted using SPSS v27.0. Results Sixteen of 20 professionals completed the survey in its entirety: 2 working in employee wellness, 13 in a hospital-based system, and 1 in both employee wellness and community/public health. Quantitative analysis depicted the highest usage of tele-visits/virtual visits and less appreciation for technology in eating disorders. Additionally, RDNs reported heightened chances of adopting a tool if the technology is the standard of care. Qualitative analysis indicated that professionals working in a setting for diabetes had a positive attitude towards wearable or smartphone nutrition applications. Moreover, other practice settings such as dialysis and post-liver transplant, eating disorders, or employee wellness produced either a neutral or negative attitude. Conclusions Registered dietitian nutritionists are highly interested in using digital health tools for patient care. However, it is difficult to conclude the current use of technology in outpatient practice. RDNs understand the potential of technology, such as wearables, in offering patients care concerning their illness or diagnosis. Although RDNs utilize telehealth, other technologies such as wearables and smartphone nutrition apps have yet to be widely adopted. The use of technology among RDNs who practice in an outpatient setting is highly variable, and therefore a presumption cannot be made. Therefore, future research is warranted, focusing on patients with various health conditions and diverse samples.

Publication Date

6-28-2022

Document Type

Thesis

Student Type

Graduate

Degree Name

Health and Well-being Management (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition (CHST)

Advisor

Elizabeth Ruder

Advisor/Committee Member

Barbara Lohse

Advisor/Committee Member

Zachary Bevilacqua

Campus

RIT – Main Campus

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