In 2003, a handful of young software developers from tiny Estonia wrote the code for a voice-over IP program and called it Skype. Derived from the words “sky” and “peer,” Skype was a video chatting and instant messaging application that allowed grad students studying abroad to chat with their significant others back home. OK, that wasn’t the only thing it was used for, but more than 10 years and $8.5 billion later—thanks Microsoft!—the uses of Skype have outgrown simple peer-to-peer communication.
The live and instant nature of Skype holds the senders and receivers of information accountable, making the program perfect for dietitians and personal trainers. Citing affordability and optimum time management, both our resident nutrition expert Mary Hartley RD, and the wellness team at Retrofit, among many others in their shared industry use Skype to counsel patients on diet and fitness.
“I could base an entire practice around Skype,” said Mary, who meets with clients in real life and over video chat. Living in New York City, Skype saves her and her patients gas money, traffic time, and office expenses. “Their (patients) appointments are booked on their Gmail calendars, they pay via PayPal before their appointment, and then we’re on,” said Mary.
Mary’s a traditionalist in that she believes face to face interactions make for better connections, but she still holds Skype in high esteem. She said, “Another drawback may be that there is usually no third party reimbursement for Skype visits,” meaning insurance probably won’t cover a video chat session.
Retrofit, the company that offers one-on-one video conferences with a team of weight loss experts, has one of the most technologically savvy solutions in the biz, and uses Skype frequently. Their clients use Fitbits and Withings wi-fi scales to measure body statistics that are constantly monitored by Retrofit’s team, who then use the info to advise said clients.
COO Kimberly Williams told me, “Skype allows the opportunity for wellness teams to build face-to-face relationships with clients.” And since many of Retrofit’s clients are business professionals who constantly travel, clients have no excuse for missing appointments. While personal interaction is preferred, video chatting has given them an international client list, and is essentially keeping Retrofit in business.
With Skype–Retrofit also uses Google Hangouts–the company increases client engagement. “We can see when a client is confident or apprehensive, and that allows us to adjust the program as necessary,” said Kimberly. Their clients cannot multitask while on live video, something they could do if sessions were blind over the phone.
While Mary claims video chatting can still mask some non-verbal cues, and Retrofit cites poor internet-connectivity as a possible drawback, they both seem to agree that Skype has shaped modern weight loss counseling in an increasingly remote world. Skype won’t help aspiring dietitians or personal trainers find clients, but it would certainly be the cornerstone of a practice once the clients are there.
Retrofit is an advertising partner of DietsInReview.com, but this story is not sponsored.
October 18th, 2013