Diet is an important component of patient care across a multitude of conditions, from diabetes to heart failure, and it runs through the fabric of gastroenterology, says Jonah Cohen ’04 MD’10, the director of Bariatric Endoscopy at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“So many patients in my field have conditions where management is closely connected to diet, such as irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease,” he says. But they wait months to get an appointment with a registered dietitian (RD), and don’t know where else to turn for advice. That observation motivated Cohen to found a “telenutrition” business, Nutrimedy, in 2016.
“Much of telemedicine has focused on physician-based care,” Cohen says. “RDs are incredibly well-positioned to help us address the immense chronic disease burden in our country, much of which is caused by poor diet.”
For the first year, Cohen bootstrapped the company, building a web-based digital health prototype and assembling a nationwide network of RDs. In 2017, he hired as CEO Karolina Starczak EMHL’17, an RD who had just completed Brown’s Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership program.
“Clinical nutrition has been used in inpatient settings for decades,” she says. “You have these evidence-based methodologies … that have been shown to improve outcomes and reduce cost. Why not improve the care delivery model to support patients closer to home?”
Nutrimedy connects patients to personalized nutrition counseling affordably and quickly, to address a broad spectrum of health concerns. “People are often struggling with multiple conditions and having solutions that are siloed can create conflicting or inadequate recommendations,” Starczak says.
The company considers not only the patient’s health history, but also lifestyle and social challenges. Starczak says, “Food is tied into so many aspects of our lives.”