Creating new evidence in St.Paul's Eating Disorders Program

Ali Eberhardt and her dietitian colleagues at the St. Paul’s Eating Disorders Program (EDP) noticed that when transitioning from active treatment to home or community, many of their patients seemed to lack support for their recovery. Patients had identified that the transition from intensive treatment to home without adequate support is a potential relapse trigger. Patients had also noted that they struggle with communicating to family members about what is helpful for their recovery.

Along with her teammates, Nicole O’Byrne, Kosa Matic-Smyrnis and Tanya Friesen, and their mentor Dr. Josie Geller, Ali wanted to know how widespread this problem was among patients at the EDP, and how to offer assistance.

In 2014, Ali and her team joined the PHC Practice-Based Research Challenge program, and were successful in receiving funding for the project, “Addressing the Gap in Adult Eating Disorder Nutritional Recovery: Transitioning Patients from Intensive Treatment to Home.”

Ali notes: “Our Research Challenge project used qualitative methods through interviews to identify the needs of patients, family and friends to support patients’ nutritional recovery (through meal supports, meal planning, grocery prep, etc.) as they transitioned from intensive treatment to the community.”

From the interviews, Ali and team identified common themes and items that patients noted as key supports, then used those themes to create a tool for the dietitian, family therapist and patient to use when preparing to transition home from treatment.

The EDP is currently involved in Phase 2 of their project, validating the tool they developed and using it in two intensive treatment programs to assist in setting up supports for home. Two additional dietitians have joined the team: Maude Henri-Bhargava and Hannah Robinson.

Ali says, “We are excited as we have received positive feedback from patients and family members about the usefulness and supportive nature of the tool. Our research has shown there are currently no other tools that look at supporting patients in this way as they transition from treatment to home.”

Ali and the team have had opportunities to present their tool to colleagues throughout the province and there has been encouragement to publish a manuscript on the tool. Patients state that using this tool makes it easier to communicate their needs to their families, and families’ feedback has been that using the tool helps them understand more clearly what their loved one needs from them.

Congratulations to the whole EDP team for their efforts to improve care for their patients!