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Nutrition care easily accessible via telehealth appointments

Elaine Davis, a registered dietician at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is preparing for a tele-medical nutrition therapy appointment with a patient at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska on Feb. 6, 2018. Using a video teleconference, patients have access to dieticians anywhere, and can get vital information in disease management and preventative care. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Elaine Davis, a registered dietician at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is preparing for a tele-medical nutrition therapy appointment with a patient at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska on Feb. 6, 2018. Using a video teleconference, patients have access to dieticians anywhere, and can get vital information in disease management and preventative care. (U.S. Air Force photo)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The U.S. Air Force Medical Service is working to increase access to high level nutrition care using tele-medical nutrition therapy.

With tele-medical nutrition therapy, or tele-MNT, patients get a referral from their primary care provider to meet with a dietitian via video teleconferencing anywhere in the world. The dietitian can guide them through a wide variety of issues, such as weight, celiac disease, allergies, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension. Tele-MNT provides a level of care not available in-person at many Air Force facilities that can help patients navigate complex nutrition needs and improve patient outcomes.

“Nutrition care is effective in disease mitigation and prevention,” said Maj. Minette Herrick, chief of Health Promotion with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. Tele-MNT makes it easier for patients to get assessments, diagnoses, interventions, monitoring, and evaluation for various conditions across the age spectrum.”

Providing the tele-MNT services is not only helpful in disease management, but is also essential to Airmen readiness. AFMS Dietitians focus on keeping Airmen healthy and ready.

“There is a definite correlation between nutrition and readiness,” said Herrick. “Weight and diet affects your ability to pass your physical fitness test. It also affects the ability to maintain ready forces and perform downrange.”

 The tele-MNT program started in November 2017, and has already received 30 referrals and made a positive impact on patient satisfaction.

“The program is starting to pick up as more patient sites open and people become interested in nutritional care,” said Herrick. “We are hearing positive things already. Patients really love the convenience of the video teleconference and think it works well.”

With positive feedback from patients, tele-MNT is aiming to add locations and bring on more dietitians.

“We want to expand the number of sites where patients can access tele-MNT to bring more nutrition resources to patients,” explained Herrick. “Eventually we want to make it easier to provide nutrition care to where patients live, work, and play.”