Jackie Elnahar is founder and CEO of TelaDietitian.
In this exclusive interview, Elnahar shares her enthusiasm for using technology to improve patients' nutrition.
TelaDietitian CEO Jackie Elnahar
TechNewsWorld: What is TelaDietitian's mission? Why did you found the company?
Jackie Elnahar: The mission of the company is to provide accessible medical nutrition therapy consultations with a registered dietitian. TelaDietition was founded because I saw patients come into the hospital, and I would advise them to go to a dietitian. They would not, and they wouldn't work on their nutritional issues.
Convenience was an obstacle, and people had trouble seeing a dietitian. TeleDietitian is a perfect solution. We provide phone consults, and you can pick a dietitian by specialty.
TNW: Explain why you have a passion for this field.
Elnahar: Since I love nutrition, it was a great business opportunity to combine nutrition with technology. I'm also very passionate about making nutrition information mainstream. I don't think seeing a registered dietitian should be a luxury. Anyone who needs to see a dietitian should see one, and it should be easy to.
TNW: What is involved in combining nutritional counseling and technology, and why is this combination important?
Elnahar: It's important in cutting healthcare costs and providing more accessible nutritional care for many that need it. Combining it with our HIPAA-compliant platform, we're providing both the healthcare and the same quality of care as an in-person consultation, but with more convenience. Everything is very streamlined, and insurance also covers many of our consultations.
TNW: How does your company fill a need that wasn't filled before?
Elnahar: We're the first company doing what we're doing. We provide the full range of medical nutritional therapy clinical consultations. We have the most dietitians nationwide, and we also use a nutritional care platform. These are the same manuals provided in hospitals when a patient is seen by a dietitian. We had great pilot programs, and we're working with different healthcare plans currently.
TNW: How is the field of teledietetics evolving and changing? What's in the future?
Elnahar: Healthcare right now is all about cutting costs. It's also about how can we incorporate more preventative medicine, so people can live more vibrant lives. We want people to live vibrantly, and nutrition is a great solution for that.
More and more healthcare plans are recognizing the importance of nutrition, since it prevents conditions like diabetes and heart disease. With TeleDietitian, people are more likely to keep their appointments, because telehealth makes it so much easier.
We're evolving in the sense that we're providing more and more dietitians nationwide, which is important because of state licensing laws. These dietitians have different specialties and languages, as well.
We're also evolving with insurance reimbursement. As telenutrition is being more reimbursed, TeleDietitian is at the forefront of that. It will increasingly become more of a reimbursable item for people. People should be able to find a specialized dietitian conveniently and in a language and location they need, at whatever hour they need.
TNW: Are there limits to telehealth versus in-person consultations?
Elnahar: There are sometimes body measurements taken with an in-person consultation, but that's really not much of an issue. The people who sign up are really honest with their numbers. Technically, based on studies, there really isn't anything that makes telehealth not as good as in-person consultations.
For nutrition specifically, when seeing a person, you get an idea of their BMI and fat deposits, but measurements are something that people are very honest about, and they provide them readily.
TNW: What challenges have you faced as a woman in a tech field?
Elnahar: Sometimes investors or stakeholders question how much a woman wants to grow the company -- when, in fact, a woman CEO and leader wants to grow a company as much as a male leader would. We have numbers that we want to obtain as well. But investors usually look at numbers, and as long as your numbers are there, you're able to bypass the woman issue.
TNW: What advice would you give to girls and women who are interested in working in a tech field or starting their own tech business?
Elnahar: Study your customers first. Make sure that you know exactly what your customers want before you invest in building something. It's like selling your product before you actually build it. Also, know that it's a long road, so plan appropriately.
It's not usually a short-term project. There's building the technology, valuing the technology, differentiating yourself from your competitors, and finally selling to customers. It takes a while to do all those steps right.
Don't give up, and make sure that you remember the reason why you started the business. For me, it's been the goal of making it easy for people to see a dietitian. I wanted to see that happen, and that really pushes me.