Marty’s Corner: Should Nutrition Services Consider Mobile Technology? You Bet!
Not that long ago, the only mobile app that I cared for (vs. its "full-size web version") was one that is used to make restaurant reservations (yes, I’m a dietitian but alas, a mediocre cook). I found the mobile version of that site much easier to use, which was in contrast to my opinion about most other apps. Fast-forward just a year or so, and I’m now at a point where I can just as easily change a seat on a flight, reserve a rental car, or post my Facebook status via my android phone. The consumer has spoken, and now "there is an app for that!" The number of mobile applications related to nutrition, food, fitness, and health has also skyrocketed. According to www.148apps.biz, out of the over 1.1 million apps in the marketplace, more than 56,000 (4.8%) are either in the categories of Food & Drink or Health & Fitness. Since February of this year, 5000 new mobile apps in those categories have appeared.
According to a recent issue of the on-line newsletter, mobihealthnews, there are now over 200 mobile apps that are hospital-branded, with 17 percent of those being from children’s hospitals. These apps include everything from facility locators and provider directories to medication reminders, and even electronic health record access. Mobile devices allow seniors to be monitored while at home, relieving them and their families of frequent trips to the doctor’s office just for a weight or a blood test, or notifying family members or emergency personnel if they’ve fallen or have remained stationary for an unusually long time. There are now even smartphone-enabled heart monitors and apps being tested that include chemical sensors that may help diagnose certain cancers!
So, what’s happening in the arena of hospital foodservice with respect to mobile devices? Nutrition department employees are consumers, too, and they no longer want to be tethered to a workstation the entire day. There are mobile devices that permit room service tray tracking at every stage of delivery. There are now wristband scanners that ensure that the correct tray is being delivered to the correct patient. More and more of this technology is web-based, allowing the use of lightweight tablet computers. More dietitians are practicing tele-nutrition. One colleague recently developed an app where clients take photos of the food they consume and then get their meals analyzed by a dietitian. Just think about any particular activity at work and imagine performing it using a mobile device. No, it probably won’t ever make me a better cook, but for many of our day-to-day activities, going mobile is either already here, or certainly not that far off in the horizon.
Article by: Marty Yadrick, MBI, MS, RDN, FAND - Director of Nutrition Informatics and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2014