UTSW Launches Culinary Medicine Consultation Service


A new program at UT Southwestern is meeting the growing need for nutritional advice via an electronic delivery system covered by insurance, which saves physicians time and improves patient satisfaction.

The initiative, called eConsult, was featured in UTSW research published in Nutrients. It showed how the consults met the needs of patients who wanted more information about how nutrition affects their health.

“Diet is the top risk factor for early death in the U.S., and the cost of diet-related diseases here is in the billions of dollars. Most patients are not getting the support they need to improve their diets in the typical clinical model,” said study leader Dr. Jaclyn Albin, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at UT Southwestern and a culinary medicine specialist. “We have developed a feasible, scalable, well-received, and low-resource way to bring culinary nutrition advice to patients and build culinary medicine as a reimbursable service line.”

Dr. Jaclyn Albin
Courtesy: UTSW

Using diet to help avoid illnesses like high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, and food allergies while on a budget is a challenge, and most primary care visits don’t include dietary guidance because of a lack of time and a gap in many physicians’ expertise. An appointment with a dietitian can be helpful, but shortages make them challenging to book, and insurance coverage can be spotty. Other times, patients’ questions don’t require an entire appointment.

Albin leads UTSW’s culinary medicine program, working in tandem with dietitian Milette Siler. The two partnered to use UTSW’s eConsult service for culinary medicine advice, bringing together the expertise of physicians, dietitians, and chefs to improve patients’ nutrition and health. Thanks to Albin and Siler working with UTSW’s billing team, sharing recipes and cooking techniques during doctor’s appointments and hosting group cooking classes can be billed to insurance, increasing access to the services for those with insurance.

Courtesy: UTSW

The program allows physicians without the time or expertise to advise patients on their diets to request an eConsult from Albin and Siler’s team. The physician then receives a personalized summary of the patient’s health and accompanying dietary recommendations, recipe suggestions, and tips for local resources for nutritional food from the culinary medicine team. The physician can deliver the information through the electronic health record and discuss the plan with the patient.

Albin and Siler recruited 11 primary care physicians to be part of the pilot program between 2021 and 2022. The physicians used the culinary medicine consults to provide specific dietary recommendations for conditions as diverse as diabetes, fatty liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, rosacea, physical disabilities, and severe dietary allergies. Most consults were covered by insurance, and the physicians reported saving time and appreciative patients.

“Dr. Albin and Ms. Siler were able to distill their expertise into an easy-to-read recommendation for my patient. It’s a really helpful thing,” says Dr. Bethany Agusala, assistant professor of internal medicine and medical director of the William T. and Gay F. Solomon General Internal Medicine Clinic.

The service is available to all UTSW patients via request from their provider, and the culinary medicine program also offers in-person appointments and will soon add community cooking classes.


Will Maddox

Will is the senior editor for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He’s written about healthcare…


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