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How Morrison Healthcare Nutrition Teams Use Telepresence Robots to Boost Patient Care

An interview with Angela Boadu, RDN, LDN/LD, Morrison Healthcare

Angela Boadu is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), with more than 10 years of experience promoting clinical nutrition initiatives for Morrison Healthcare, including telehealth, pediatric nutrition programming, education on obesity and its comorbidities, and managing complications related to social determinants of health. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and leads the charge for clinical projects for Morrison Healthcare’s Central Division.


What prompted the need for this clinical nutrition service enhancement?

Hospital staff is often taxed with doing more with less. Telepresence technology not only addresses a very real need: to help our nutrition teams see more patients— but it also creates opportunities for hybrid and flexible work environments for our clinical staff.  This innovative solution aligns with our unwavering focus on patient experience. While it doesn’t take the place of an in-person experience for nutritional-based exams, patients of all ages, and their families, have now become more comfortable with virtual treatment.

How did you introduce the telepresence robots to your clinical care teams?

The introduction of the telepresence robots marked a significant shift in our approach, offering a seamless blend of HIPAA-compliant technology with the personal touch of patient care that is associated with seeing a friendly face. As we launched our initial pilot, in partnership with OhmniLabs, the benefits of the telepresence robotic platform became clear to both clinicians and patients. They enjoyed benefits that are not available with more traditional methods of telehealth while still being able to work with a real-life dietitian on the other side of the screen.

How can this technology help address staffing concerns?

Ongoing staffing shortages in dietetics continue to be a barrier to the delivery of optimal patient care, and we must explore innovative solutions. Ohmni telepresence robots have helped fill the gap, and we’ve since deployed robots in 17 hospitals with 30 dietitians trained in their operation. In a rapidly changing job market, with the number of qualified candidates shrinking, telepresence technology allows us to stay competitive and attract top talent. This technology not only helps us create an employee value proposition that is appealing to new hires but also assists in retaining our current pool of clinicians who seek the flexibility that a virtual option offers.

How does the telepresence robot work to promote optimal clinical care?

The robot’s mobility has provided a major boost to our dietitians’ duties. Our remote, inpatient dietitians now accompany physicians on their rounds, going from room to room and visiting with patients at their bedside for consultations and follow-ups — no longer are we hoping a patient will pick up the phone; instead, we “call” into the robot and its self-driving capabilities allow us to enter the room just as if we were there in person. The telepresence robot helps us get patients discharged more efficiently with the increase in dietitian contact, which positively impacts room turnover. Even a few minutes shaved off the process can make the lives of everyone involved in the patient’s care easier.

What features does this technology use to further enhance the clinical care model?

The screen-sharing feature on the Ohmni robots has proved extremely helpful. Our dietitians can go over charts from the electronic medical record, share educational materials, and even visit different websites and discuss them in real time with the patient and the family present. The high-definition cameras equipped on the Ohmni robots allow our team of dietitians to visually assess the nutritional status of our patients, an essential component in identifying and addressing malnutrition. This visual inspection not only enriches our service quality in the inpatient setting but also enables us to meet insurance reimbursement criteria for our consultations, ensuring our services remain accessible and affordable.

How can the telepresence robot help advance health equity beyond the hospital walls?

The positive results in our inpatient services inspired us to also explore telepresence’s potential in outpatient care. We’ve witnessed a remarkable increase in patient engagement, especially among pediatric patients who are naturally drawn to the novelty and interactivity of the robots.

How can this innovation address social determinants of health in unique settings?

This technology has been a boon for our rural hospitals. We serve one particular healthcare system—comprised of three different hospitals spread out across rural Texas. With the aid of the Ohmni robots, we’re able to have just two dietitians available for all three facilities, which would have been infeasible if not for the assistance of telepresence. It is important to consider, again, what this means from an equity and inclusion standpoint. We are still able to ensure safe, timely, quality medical nutrition therapy using technology to reach communities that may not have otherwise had access to a specialized dietitian— if any dietitian at all. We allow patients to stay in their communities without having to incur travel costs, take additional time away from school and work, and potentially not have the support of family members they need by their side.

What’s the future of telepresence in the clinical nutrition space?

We can continue to integrate telepresence robots into our services and explore new avenues to leverage this technology. From taking orders— to conducting regulatory audits— to ensuring the safety and appropriateness of meals for patients with specific dietary needs, the possibilities for remote interaction are endless. Our vision is to set a new standard in nutritional services, one that embraces technology to enhance patient care, improve outcomes, support our staff, and create unmatched experiences. By implementing technology like telepresence robots, and with partners like OhmniLabs, we can continue to drive innovations that ensure every patient and client experience is as enriching, effective, and meaningful as possible.

At Morrison Healthcare, our targeted nutrition services are backed by the expertise of over 3,000 registered dietitians — helping patients thrive in over 900 hospitals. Put our expertise to work for you to optimize patient outcomes, cut costs, and improve regulatory compliance with our leading clinical programs. Learn more about our comprehensive clinical nutrition program here



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