As hospitals and physician groups join Accountable Care Organizations whereby financial incentives are earned for keeping patients healthy and out of the hospital, health care providers are beginning to refer patients to supermarket dietitians.
“Historically, dietitians have reached out to hospitals to say, ‘These are all the services we offer in our store, take advantage of them,’ but what’s happening now is it’s the other way around,” explained Annette Maggi, president of nutrition consulting firm Annette Maggi & Associates, and executive director of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance.
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2. Multicultural Offerings
3. E-Grocery Expansion
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5. Dietitians in Demand
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Maggi explained that under an accountable care reimbursement model, “There are financial implications for hospitals if someone gets readmitted, so they’re trying to figure out how to partner with entities that help make the patient more successful at managing their condition.”
Because they are located at the point of sale, retail dietitians are especially valued members of the patient care team.
“If you take a cardiac patient, of course they met with a dietitian when they were in the hospital, but they’re often not thinking proactively about what this will mean when I go home,” Maggi said. “But in the retail setting a dietitian has such an influential role because it’s the point of purchase. Just think of having heart disease and shopping the oil aisle and not being sure what to buy. The retail dietitian can provide that guidance.”
While hospitals and physicians stand to benefit financially from the store tours, nutrition classes and one-on-one consultations for which food retailers often foot the bill, such referrals can be a boon to supermarkets, noted Maggi.
“Since their margins are so low, new customers, more transactions and increased basket sizes are what’s most important to retailers, so if they can build partnerships that can bring more customers to the store, that’s a benefit to the retailer,” she said.
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