Nutritional Care's Rising Moment in Healthcare
There are unprecedented tailwinds in nutritional care. The industry is finally getting started, and we're here for it.
Healthie has been supporting nutritional care since 2016, with our all-in-one practice management platform used by thousands of dietitians, nutritionists, and health coaches who are the true innovators in delivering better healthcare. In fact, we started Healthie because dietitians and coaches were piecing together 5-7 platforms to practice care. At the time, legacy EHRs did not meet the needs for these professionals, and as a result, they were spending more than half of their days on back-office, administrative work like scheduling, billing, and charting.
Fast forward to 2023, and it’s amazing to see the momentum in nutritional care. There is so much innovation in the industry. VC and PE dollars are flowing in to support this innovation, and there are builders working to support nutritional care professionals who are the experts in delivering personalized, recurring care, with an emphasis on preventative healthcare services - all of what healthcare needs more of! For us, it’s amazing to watch these organizations use Healthie to deliver this care, leveraging our API-first, customizable platform that was designed, from Day 1, for nutrition and wellness providers.
Ultimately, this is exactly what healthcare needs more of; Nutritional Care = Preventative Care. Whole-person, collaborative care is the core of value-based care, and we are thrilled to see that America is finally waking up to this.
Nutritional Care is following the footsteps of Physical Therapy, Chiro, and Behavioral Health
15 years ago, EHRs like WebPT and ChiroTouch served a growing market - the private practice physical therapy and chiropractic segments. These platforms served a market facing many tailwinds, and supported substantive growth in business size for these practitioners.
3-5 years ago, behavioral health, rightly so, became, and continues to be, at the forefront of everybody’s mind. People realize the benefits of working with mental health professionals; Employers and health plans are increasingly covering care as they see positive ROI for their members, and the pandemic accelerated the acceptance of behavioral health as an important cornerstone of healthcare - the industry continues to grow quickly today.
Nutrition is a shining bright spot in the industry, and it's a key fulcrum to help turn things around in American healthcare. Nutritional care is increasingly serving as an integral part of patient-centered medical care. So many patients have not felt seen or heard by the healthcare system, shuttled in and out of cramped waiting rooms for quick appointments with doctors that don’t know them deeply. The one-off, episodic traditional nature of our industry has failed many of us.
Now, with recurring, virtual-first care services, patients are better supported through their preferred modalities. Patients match with companies and services that best meet their needs - this can be with solo practitioners or larger care-delivery companies alike. Collectively, these businesses large and small are expanding the scope of nutritional care, and ensuring these essential services are reaching everyone who needs it. It also helps that insurance reimbursement for nutritional care has started to improve, thus further helping to secure care for those who need it most.
Moreover, the industry has taken giant leaps forward, both from a technology and care-delivery standpoint. We’ve come so far from the days of MyFitnessPal being the solution to nutritional care and generic “one-size-fits-all” nutrition advice. There’s been a skyrocketing of new tools and technologies, along with a cultural shift of real collaboration between providers in our system. It’s becoming more common to see PCPs referring to nutrition professionals and vice-versa. This in turn is leading to better patient health outcomes at lower costs, which is exactly what our population needs.
Sub-Components in Nutritional Care
When we think of the future of healthcare, we think about collaborative, patient-centered, personalized care delivery. In many ways, nutrition professionals are the true champions this type of practice
Not all nutritional care is the same - and this is a massive industry, so specialization is a good thing, and it’s happening. Here are some of the key categories in nutritional care:
- Food as Medicine
- Virtual-first nutritional care programs
- Medical weight loss
- Sports nutrition
- Pediatric nutrition
- Eating disorder treatment
- Geriatric nutrition
- Family nutrition
- … and much more!
Tailwinds in Nutritional Care’s Favor
To recap, here’s where we feel like the market is going, and how nutritional care is integral in that movement:
- Traditional medical care is waking up to the fact that the recurring, relationship-driven care (i.e., the way nutrition professionals have been practicing for years) is what drives better healthcare outcomes and lower costs.
- More reimbursement for medical nutrition therapy, along with a greater percentage of Americans receiving either private or public health insurance.
- Surge in telemedicine adoption, and the fact that substantive portions of nutritional care delivery can happen virtually; This started in COVID-19 (Healthie’s telehealth utilization increased 6x and has stayed consistently high) and has persisted at levels greater than prior to the pandemic. Today, telehealth goes well beyond just a zoom link → it encompasses all the tools, engagement mechanisms, micro-habit changes (with the help of a provider!) that creates true patient engagement.
- Culturally, our society is orienting towards holistic self-care. That means as consumers we’re prioritizing wellness; as citizens we are paying attention to science and exploring personalized nutrition; and as family members we are emphasizing mental health so we can be our best selves.
Bringing Nutritional Care Services to Market
And here’s how we see nutrition providers, and care-delivery companies, leveraging the shift in healthcare:
- Use best-in-class technology. Focus on quality care delivery (we write more about this here).
- Build a differentiated patient experience. From the beginning, ensure that the patient is at the center of your care models. Now more than ever, patients are looking for transparent, personalized, and engaging care services. Moreover, they are looking to be equal participants in their care, and with setting their health goals.
- Demonstrate clinical excellence: Nutritional care bucks the trend of taking a pill for everything by providing whole-patient, real-world solutions to healthcare issues. But this means we need to listen to the experts and take a clinician-first approach to care, letting the science and protocols guide on what is best for patients.
- Demonstrate ROI: Ensure that money spent is driving better health outcomes. Find ways to demonstrate this in continuous intervals so all parties are aligned and driving towards continued progress.
- Find Distribution: Invest in a strong patient acquisition funnel; get your name out there whether it be D2C, B2B, partnerships, ad spend, or a combination thereof. Make it easy to book appointments and get started with your programs. Ultimately we collectively need to get care in the hands of people who need it most.
This is just the beginning for nutritional care. We can’t wait to see what the next 5-10 years bring for this industry. Thank you to all who are building and growing in this space, we are cheering you on!