How Nutrition Improves Clinical Outcomes & Reduces Healthcare Costs
In an age when diet-related chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity-induced hypertension, are the chief drivers of $4.1 trillion spent annually on healthcare expenses in the U.S., why is it that nutrition remains a missing link in the American medical model?
Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) delivered by registered dietitians (RD) has been shown to directly correlate with improved clinical outcomes for chronic disease patients and reduced costs related to medication use, hospital readmission, and physician time. Nevertheless, diet-related chronic illnesses remain the leading cause of death for Americans. With 60% of U.S. adults suffering from at least one chronic disease and 40% having two or more, the “at-risk” patient population for such life-threatening diagnoses is no longer the minority. These same patients stand to benefit immensely from MNT. Here’s just one example…
I had a physical done in early June (40 year-old check-up) and was told I was overweight (250lbs @ 6’), had high cholesterol , borderline blood pressure problems and given family history was a prime candidate for diabetes, and heart disease…I thank my lucky stars I was connected with [my Sylvan dietitian] in mid-July! With her help and guidance, I am down 50lbs, my blood pressure has improved to better than it was at 18. More importantly than that with [my dietitian]’s help I am mastering my relationship with food.– Sylvan Health Patient
Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance carriers cover the cost of several dietitian visits per year for patients with key chronic diseases. However, many medical providers are not aware that these benefits exist. Even when they are, checking insurance coverage and finding an in-network dietitian is arduous. This means that most patients are never referred to a nutrition professional in the first place, leaving their unused benefits on the table while racking up lofty healthcare expenses in prescriptions and follow-up visits.
Meanwhile, dietitians tend to be centralized in metropolitan areas where the most high-paying jobs are found. Little infrastructure exists to enable dietitians to offer ongoing, personalized care tailored to patients’ budget, lifestyle, and health goals. This leaves patients in rural areas and food deserts at a steep disadvantage, as they may never see a dietitian or be informed of the importance of nutrition in their health at all.
The traditional treatment approach to chronic disease leaves ample room for improvement in patient care and reduction of healthcare costs to the nation as a whole. The time for change is now and Syvlan Health is bringing a solution to transform the landscape of chronic disease management for good.
Physicians and mid-level providers play the most essential role in the detection, diagnosis, and initiation of treatment for chronic illness. While doctors can use their 15-minute appointment time with a patient to advance them in a treatment plan or recommend medications that address specific symptoms, it’s difficult to equip patients with the tools required to make the behavior change that can reverse or prevent their illness in the first place.
When patients are encouraged to “eat healthier” or “lose weight”, such advice often proves defeating, unless they are given a nutrition plan tailored to their unique health needs, food preferences, budget, and lifestyle. Such resources and personal support can only be provided by licensed and trained dietitians offering services that patients can afford and access.
Dietitians need more ways to build their practice beyond city-based hospitals and clinics. This entails expansion of licensure, credentialing, insurance coverage, and infrastructure to facilitate payment so that they can develop relationships with and track results for patients in urban and rural settings alike. Only with the help of telehealth technology can a dietitian scale their practice to other states.
The Sylvan Solution
To address the long-standing gap in care that is nutrition therapy, Sylvan Health partners with payors and providers to match eligible patients with licensed dietitians who specialize in their condition. Sylvan works with insurance companies to check benefits, empowering patients in their health journey like never before. Recognizing that affordability and accessibility are essential to proper care delivery and clinical outcomes, Sylvan is thrilled to boast that 90% of patients have zero out-of-pocket costs.
Conducted through our state-of-the-art telehealth platform, Sylvan connects patients to life-changing nutritional care from the comfort of their home. Furthermore, Sylvan dietitians send frequent updates to physicians, tracking progress in glucose control, weight management, blood pressure, and other critical metrics. These outcomes decrease the need for costly healthcare interventions, like prescriptions, specialist visits, and hospitalizations. In the meantime, providers can boast the newfound ability to improve the long-term health of their patients – a major leg-up for succeeding in value-based care arrangements.
With government policy continually favoring and forwarding the integration of nutrition in healthcare, food-as-medicine is here to stay. Whether you’re a patient, provider, payor, dietitian, or fellow medical service provider, Sylvan is here as your partner in health. We would love to work with you!