5 Ways to Use Technology With Eating Disorder Clients

Learn how telehealth for eating disorders can be used as recovery tool. Find out how Healthie's app can help with eating disorder recovery.

Technology and social media are often touted as contributing factors to poor body image and disconnection, but the lack of tech-based tools in my treatment wasn’t because of negative stigma. It was because technology had little integration in the wellness industry overall.

Thanks to many dedicated individuals and specialized care, I was able to receive the treatment I required. I truly believe that working with a dietitian was a crucial part of my recovery (thank you!). I also believe in the power of today’s technology to further leverage treatment.

Technology has the power to improve and expand nearly every aspect of our lives, giving way to more accessible and in-depth nutritional care. The tech industry is growing at a rapid pace, so let’s fluidly grow with it!

But, I understand your hesitation.

When it comes to incorporating technology into the nutrition and wellness fields, there are two ends of the spectrum:

  • The increased focus on social media trends contributing to eating concerns and anxiety.
  • Or, technology as a powerful tool to improve care, awareness, and the connection between you and your clients with eating disorders.

While both are true, I invite you to focus on the latter.

When used appropriately, tech-based tools are an empowering way to increase engagement. Further, integrating technology into your practice can help clients stay connected with you, genuinely aiding in their treatment and recovery. After all, as you know, eating disorders are about so much more than food. 50-75% of individuals with an eating disorder also experience depression and two-thirds suffer from anxiety disorders.

If you can implement a tool to relieve some of this anguish, then why not use it?

Here are 5 ways technology benefits eating disorder clients:

1. Telehealth

Telehealth is the term used to describe any application of technology and digital communication in healthcare. In the Healthie Community, we most often use the term “telehealth” when referring to virtual counseling sessions, where a provider and client meet in real-time through HIPAA-compliant video consultations.

You may prefer to have consistent, in-person appointments when treating clients with eating disorders, however, having an additional option of video sessions can be beneficial.

Also, reimbursement for telehealth is improving. Many insurance companies will reimburse for follow-up sessions after an initial in-person consultation.

5 Ways to Use Technology With Eating Disorder Clients

But if you can see your clients in person, why offer virtual consultations?

Nearly 30 million Americans have eating disorders, but only 1 in 10 are able to receive the treatment their lives depend on. Every 62 minutes there is an eating disorder-related death.

Eating disorders are treatable, but do require specialized attention. Telehealth technology provides accessible care for clients who are out of reasonable distance to seek in-person care. This is huge!

By providing telehealth appointments, you can potentially save the lives of people with eating disorders who would not otherwise receive treatment.

Furthermore, missing an appointment due to unpredictable circumstances may contribute to feelings of instability for clients in recovery. Virtual consultations make this a non-issue! Circumstances like weather or sickness will not prevent you from counseling or your clients from receiving care.

Commuting and keeping consistent in-person appointments can also be a challenge for clients who are in school, working, taking care of children, and keeping up with other daily commitments. If your client has monthly in-person sessions, you can continue communication with telehealth sessions in-between appointments. When your client may no longer require regular sessions, follow-ups and support are made much easier with telehealth as well.

Even more, you can take your work outside of your (virtual) office. Schedule exposure therapy sessions in grocery stores via telehealth. It’s easier to stay “on track” exclusively in traditional sessions, but why not also be there with your client in real-life triggering scenarios?

2. Photo Food Logging

Food journaling is often numbers-focused, which can lead to obsessive behaviors and thoughts. On the other hand, photo food logging is a science-backed alternative, where clients can post pictures of their meals, with reflection and comments.

When restructuring your client’s relationship with food, traditional approaches to food journaling may not be appropriate. However, picture-based food logging can be a mindful option that encourages a more neutral relationship with food and allows your clients to see their food choices holistically.

5 Ways to Use Technology With Eating Disorder Clients

In Healthie’s photo food log, clients can also comment on their pre-meal hunger, post-meal fullness, and emotions tied to each eating experience. As a Healthie provider, you can comment on the entries for encouragement along the way, all in one platform, in real-time.

3. Customized Tracking

When you hear “tracking,” you may think that’s exactly what your clients with eating disorders shouldn’t be doing. After all, viewing metrics and numbers can be a huge trigger for clients with eating disorders. However, as the provider, you may choose to keep track of certain metrics like blind body weights and BMI.

With Healthie’s customized tracking, you can disable these tracking features from your client’s view. Your clients will NOT view their weight, BMR, BMI, body fat, etc., if you don’t want them to.

To make it even easier, we created an “Eating Disorder Default” so clients can:

  • Take pictures of food and comment
  • Rate pre-meal hunger and post-meal fullness
  • Track their emotion surrounding a meal (sad, angry, stressed, tired, bored, confident, happy)
  • Reflect on meals
5 Ways to Use Technology With Eating Disorder Clients

These beneficial tracking features encourage your clients to increase awareness, express themselves within a safe and secure system, make connections between emotional well-being and eating, and build a healthier, more intuitive relationship with food… all within Healthie.

4. Document Sharing

Have you thought about distributing unique content or exercises in mindfulness to further support and educate your clients on their road to recovery?

Depending on the nature of your practice, you may find it useful to distribute additional materials to your clients in-between sessions. Healthie’s document sharing feature allows you to securely share any materials you wish.

Now, your client’s recovery is not limited to their scheduled appointment times – it’s 24/7. Sharing documents gives you the option to increase client engagement and knowledge during their recovery process, outside of your scheduled appointment times. Your clients will benefit, and your scheduled sessions will be even more valuable.

5 Ways Technology Benefits Eating Disorder Clients - The Healthie Blog

5. Client-Provider Messaging

A portal for fluid communication between you and your clients fosters a strong support system. For your clients, being able to send a message at any time, through Healthie’s client messaging feature, provides an overall sense of security and stability. How often you choose to respond and communicate is up to your boundaries and methods of practice.

You can send videos, links, and images through the messaging feature. To send inspiration and encouragement to many clients at once you can send message blasts (think of it like a “BCC” in an email).

Strong client engagement helps foster a strong client/provider relationship. Plus, it implies that your clients are more engaged in their own recovery process, which leads to better treatment outcomes.

5 Ways to Use Technology With Eating Disorder Clients

Integrating technology into your practice is a hugely beneficial and necessary component in today’s treatment of eating disorders.

Here at Healthie, we want to help you provide the best treatment for your clients. We want to make care more accessible and engaging for those who need it most, including those struggling with eating disorders.

Most importantly, we want to personally thank you for all the incredible work that you do. Your success and your clients’ well-being is why we are here!

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