Health & Wellbeing
Expanding your Reach: Positioning your Programs in a Digital World
Nina Crowley
Nina Crowley

In healthcare, there is a demand to increase time spent in direct patient care while also reaching patients in rural or remote areas via telemedicine and other means. Registered Dietitians are feeling the pressure to provide more services to more and more people, while still delivering high quality of life services that improve well-being. Using available resources, promoting your programs, and utilizing social media can help to reach more patients effectively, albeit in alternative ways.

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is located in Charleston, a beautiful city along the coast.  MUSC draws patients from all over the state and we are expected to maintain good follow up with those patients, no matter how far away they live. This can be a real challenge given the population breakdown in the state.

Traditionally, a majority of South Carolina RDs are located in the central and more populated regions, but the patients we are trying to reach are dispersed throughout the state. In South Carolina, about 14% of all the RDs in the state are located in ‘rural’ areas, while 86% are in the ‘non-rural areas’. We have roughly 1 RD for every 3500 people that live in South Carolina and we are committed to supporting our local communities even when they are not exactly “local”.

While there are some exciting developments and opportunities for billing and reimbursement for RDs, I wanted to discuss some best practices from our bariatric surgery program that may be applicable to other programs in other areas. Dietitians have the opportunity to use their creativity to meet the needs of the growing population of those in need for nutrition advice!

Debbie Petitpain and I have become resourceful at meeting the needs of our diverse patient population, and have worked to provide resources to our patients by making many of our resources virtual. Patients are always asking us what to buy, how to grocery shop, and exactly what brand and products to buy. We have led successful in-person grocery store tours, but we wanted to reach out to more people with this information.

We are excited about our new virtual grocery store tour which can be viewed on YouTube from anywhere!

Highlights of the tour include:

  • review of the recommended meal plan
  • where to find items based on a typical grocery store layout
  • nutrition facts label reading tips
  • how to interpret health claims
  • discussion about what belongs in each food group and what counts as a serving
  • what to choose and what to avoid
  • brand-specific products we love
  • discussion of specific ‘health halos’
  • general grocery shopping tips

My mantra has always been, “If I say it 10 times, I make a handout, and if I say it more than 50 times, I make a video or podcast”. Taking common messages that multiple patients need to hear and making them interactive, not only reaches more people, but may be speaking in a language they understand. I know so many people have a drawer full of ‘nutrition education handouts’ that they have been given in the past, but in the digital world, making your messages match how people like to learn will make them more likely to be implemented!

The ‘Virtual Grocery Store Tour for Bariatric Patients’ can be found on the YouTube Channel, DigestiveDiseaseMUSC: or on MUSC’S Bariatric Surgery Program’s Webpage, under Virtual Grocery Store Tour.

We have developed many innovative ways to serve our patients. Here are a few that you can read about or access online.

Nina Crowley, MS, RD, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian who lives and works in Charleston, SC. Ms. Crowley is the past President of the South Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and works for Sodexo as a Bariatric Dietitian for the Medical University of South Carolina’s Weight Loss Surgery Program.

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