It is unquestionable that seeing a dietitian for one-on-one medical nutrition therapy services and behavioural counselling is effective in improving outcomes for chronic health issues such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. However, it is common to see patients relapse between dietetic consults or even after the completion of consults. In order to counteract this, patients need to self-monitor their progress and compliance. Keeping in mind the goals and strategies discussed with their dietitian.
Smart phone apps as part of the nutrition care process
There is an increasing dependence on smart phones nowadays. A recent survey reported that 45% of Australia’s population claimed they cannot live without their smart phones. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that dietitians are now taking advantage of this era of mobile health. Commonly known as ‘mHealth’; it is defined as incorporating the use of wireless technology to achieve various health goals. Consistently working towards health goals each day can be difficult in today’s busy lifestyle without daily reminders. A simple app like the ‘Drink Water Daily Reminder’ app popping up on a person’s phone screen each day can be useful in improving a person’s hydration status.
In August 2014, there were more than 43,00 apps listed in the health and fitness category of major app stores such as apple and android app stores. From 2017 onward, there were more than 325,000 apps downloadable from apple and android app stores. Two thirds of these commercial apps are related to nutrition and lifestyle. According to a survey completed by 139 dietitians, 40.5% of respondents had recommended nutrition or food related apps to clients and 54.2% had a client ask about or use nutrition or food related apps.
Unique features of smart phone apps
- Apps for logging dietary intake and physical activity: A large international web-based study was conducted conducted among 381 dietitians. It found that food logging apps such as ‘Easy Diet Diary’ can be useful as they reduce time spent collecting dietary information. Consultation time can then be spent on negotiating goals and strategies and discussing positive behavior changes. Smart phone apps like ‘My Fitness Pal’ can be used to maintain food logs as well as track physical activity levels.
Multi-component apps: The ‘Noom’ coach app helps users track their progress and provides access to counselling through private and group messaging, as well as phone calls. The Diabetes Prevention program which is administered through an app was found to bring about significant weight loss from the start of using the app to 16 weeks in, and then 24 weeks in.
The road ahead
Smart phone apps can be used in conjunction with individualised dietitian sessions. And, can support the compliance of the goals you set with your dietitian. However, the demographics of the patient and how tech-savvy they are will determine how useful the app is to them. There is a huge potential for apps to support the services of private practice dietitians. The apps can be particularly useful for younger adults as they serve as a constant reminder to make healthier food choices, to increase physical activity levels, and provide nutrition education to users. There is potential for the apps to facilitate behavioural change if used for extended periods of time.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney. If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.