This week, telenutrition company Foodsmart launched a new program designed to help the nation’s most at-risk populations make healthy eating choices that don’t hurt their budgets.
The program, called Foodscripts, enables primary care physicians to refer their patients to Foodsmart dietitians, as well as prescribe healthy food like they would a medication. The new initiative is being rolled out at Advocate Health, Intermountain Health and Memorial Hermann Health System — which collectively serve 7.4 million patients.
San Francisco-based Foodsmart, founded in 2010, seeks to tackle chronic disease and nutrition insecurity by partnering with health plans and providers to give patients affordable access to healthy food options, said CEO Jason Langheier. He pointed out that his company addresses various aspects of a patient’s relationship to food — from establishing a baseline of nutrition knowledge to offering tools that make it easier to put healthy food on the table.
Foodsmart has a network of more than 700 virtual dietitians. Patients usually are able to get a visit within two weeks of being referred to Foodsmart, and they have the option to meet with their dietician on nights and weekends, Langheier noted.
During these visits, dietitians help patients plan budget-friendly meals to meet health goals. Langheier said these visits are unlimited, and patients don’t face any out-of-pocket costs.
Patients can also order healthy food on Foodsmart’s platform — the company partners with local grocery stores and food delivery services like Instacart, Amazon and Grubhub. And for those who are eligible, Foodsmart helps patients apply for SNAP/EBT as well as helps them use those dollars to purchase healthy food.
The combination of Foodsmart’s dietician-directed support with its food marketplace “is what creates long term food security,” Langheier declared.
Additionally, Foodsmart’s platform provides grocery price comparisons between local stores, coupons and thousands of affordable recipes. Patients with some chronic conditions may also receive ready-to-eat medically tailored meals at their doorstep, Langheier added.
“Whether a member needs help eating to support a specific condition, is interested in applying for/utilizing SNAP, or is operating on a tight budget, we adapt to meet their needs. Our integrations with local grocery stores, local medically tailored food and produce box partners, and food delivery partners allow members to integrate Foodsmart into their usual routines while helping them save money,” he explained.
Langheier stated that the idea behind Foodsmart’s new Foodscripts program is to help doctors prescribe food just as easily as they might a normal pharmacy prescription. When a patient comes into the office with a chronic condition for which good nutrition is part of the treatment plan — like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or heart disease — their doctor can simply write a foodscript and enter it into the patient’s electronic health record.
Foodsmart is also working with its health system partners to train providers on how and when to use foodscripts for various chronic diseases — so that prescribing nutrition to treat disease “becomes second nature,” Langheier remarked.
Once a patient receives their foodscript from their provider, they have their initial visit with a Foodsmart dietitian. During their visit, the dietitian will assess the member’s food habits, cultural preferences, lifestyle, food insecurity status and health goals. Then, referencing the foodscript from the provider, the dietician will articulate a plan for the member to reach their goals, considering the practical implications of making a behavior and lifestyle change, Langheier explained.
“Ultimately, we aim to be able to provide all people, regardless of their location, economic status, or education, with the opportunity to use a ‘food is medicine’ approach to their health. In an effort to address some of our most common chronic illnesses, we want to see members have food and nutritional security. This means that healthy food options should be affordable, available, and attainable to anyone,” he declared.
Photo: Flickr user Sue Thompson