So much has been written on the topic of technology in healthcare, with new innovations constantly changing the way health professionals provide patient care.
From nutrition informatics to digital dietitians, the world of nutrition and dietetics is no different to any other industry when it comes to being “taken over” by the rise in technology, and the digital future of food and nutrition will remain unpredictable and continue to evolve for many decades to come.
Whilst this is an exciting era to live in, most of us nutrition professionals will be very familiar with the curse of technology, where a screen is replacing face-to-face conversations in many of our interactions with peers and clients, as well as family and friends. As a parent of young children, I am mindful of this more than ever. Whilst I value and use many digital tools in my personal and work life, I make a conscious effort to never let technology replace the most important aspects of my life, which are human contact and real-life interactions.
When Dietitian Connection asked me to write an article about technology, given there is already so much content on this topic available at the tap of a few fingers, I decided to review the areas in my work and personal life where I don’t use technology, and how this has made a positive difference in my professional and personal life.
- Be present with your patient
Before I started my own company, I briefly worked as a clinical sports dietitian in a busy sports clinic. Working in private practice, one of the most important skills required is to listen to someone and, more importantly, actually hear them. Any dietitian, no matter what area of practice, knows that eating and nutrition challenges can be very complex, and are usually integrated into a complicated spider’s web of other social and psychological challenges. Never once during my sessions did I use an electronic device to record any notes, or use as part of the consultation. Other dietitians may use devices successfully during patient consultations, but I always felt the need to be fully present and listen to my client’s concerns, challenges, beliefs and fears. Without a full-body listening approach, free of any electronic devices, I don’t believe I could have achieved this.
- A presentation should be a story-telling session, not a presentation
I love PowerPoint, keynote and other digital tools just as much as any presenter. I always aim to use videos, animations and images as much as possible, and text as little possible. Whilst I use technology in about 99% of the workshops I run, the purpose of these is really just to plant the seed of an idea. The story that unfolds, and the conversations between the audience and myself, happens person to person. My preference is to use just one image per slide, perhaps a single quote or a video, which then leads onto a group discussion. Rather than relying on technology to capture every word of the story, I instead use it to set the scene for the real magic to happen through discussion of ideas as a two-way conversation.
- Believe it or not, a meal can be eaten even if it doesn’t appear on Instagram
Yes, I am guilty of whipping out my iPhone and insisting on photographing a plate of food before anyone is allowed to take a bite. But, more and more, I find I have less inclination to do this. There are some incredible Instagrammers that have really mastered the art of food styling and photography and can make anyone salivate just by looking at their food images. But I think too many of us have forgotten the art and joy of social meals, which should focus more on the people and conversation and less on what the food looks like on social media. In a social media world, where conversation is reduced to emojis and thumbs up or down, people are forgetting the social art of enjoying a meal together, or pretending to live a life that may be aspirational, but is usually not achievable.
- Keeping memories alive…only in my memory
On a personal level, my best way of using technology is to record digital time capsules of my kids growing up. I have a photography-documentary blog called Fairies and Monkeys, where I store video and photo stories of my kids. Many of my friends know that my SLR camera is usually attached to my hip like a third child, and photography allows me to explore my creative side, using the best possible subjects I could ever ask for: my children. However, I know how important it is to put the camera away. Whilst photography has taught me to view life through a different lens (literally), there is nothing in the world that compares to being in the moment with your child, watching it all unfold in real time right in front of your own eyes, and savouring every fleeting aspect of childhood: fully present, fully aware and fully human.