Previous studies have examined barriers (e.g. time) for Family Medicine Providers (FMPs) to provide nutrition and lifestyle counseling, however, to date no studies have examined access or interest to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) care for patients.
The objective of this study was to explore FMP access, referral practices, barriers and preferences for RDN care.
A cross-sectional online survey, with content and face validation was conducted with Family Medicine Departments within large academic health care systems in the Southeastern United States. The main variables of interest included: FMP access, interest, current referrals and referral preferences for RDN care, barriers to referrals and overall perceptions regarding RDN care. Descriptive analysis of close-ended responses was performed with SPSS 26.0. Open-ended responses were analysed using inductive content analysis.
Over half of the respondents (n = 151) did not have an RDN on-site (64%) yet were highly interested in integrating an RDN (94.9%), with reported preferences for full-time on-site, part-time on-site or off-site RDN care (49.1%, 39.5% and 11.4% respectively). The greatest reported barriers to RDN referrals were perceived cost for the patient (64.47%) and uncertainty how to find a local RDN (48.6%). The most consistent theme reported in the open-ended responses were concerns regarding reimbursement, e.g. ‘Insurance does not cover all of the ways I would like to use an RDN’.
FMPs report interest and value in RDN services despite multiple perceived barriers accessing RDNs care. Opportunities exist for interprofessional collaboration between dietetic and FMP professional groups to address barriers.

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