By Amanda Steinhauser, LVN, WCC
Everyone has heard the numbers; wound care costs in the United States are reported to be in excess of fifty billion dollars annually. Moreover, more than six million Americans suffer from chronic wounds. According to the American Diabetes Association, over one million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Despite these jaw-dropping statistics, wound care assessment techniques remain, for the majority, one of the most antiquated parts of health care.
Evaluating Current Methods of Wound Healing Assessment
As a wound clinic coordinator, I am continuously searching for ways to improve patient outcomes and to create an efficient workflow. In nearly every other area of medicine or non-healthcare industry, if a system is found to be ineffective, then it is evaluated and altered. In wound care, we are willing to accept poor data collection and faulty patient assessment techniques as status quo. Why?
What if we didn’t have to accept the apparent status quo? What if there were a way to standardize would care assessment? To objectively use data in order to obtain proper wound healing rates? To utilize data varying with etiologies from all over the country in order to predict wound healing time? What if dressing selections could be constructed using a systematic formula? And what if by simply using something we already have, patient outcomes exponentially improve?
Approximately one year ago, our wound clinic underwent an exciting development; the number of weekly patients increased significantly. Although it was thrilling to finally see our hard work paying off, this increase of patients also resulted in some serious growing pains. We had to make a choice: hire more staff members or stop the acceptance of new patients. Serving as both the clinic coordinator and the only full-time wound care nurse, I struggled to maintain organization with our reportable data, such as wound healing rates. Anyone who has attempted to tackle wound healing rates would understand how daunting the task truly is: collecting the data and calculations necessary to obtain accurate numbers is extremely difficult.
Soon, I began noticing that our wound measurements were not consistent. For instance, a wound might measure 1.0x1.0 cm one week, and then it would measure 1.0x0.8 cm the following week. The wound would eventually increase to the original size (1.0x1.0 cm) based on measurement during the third week. Upon viewing every image taken of the wound, I found that it appeared that the wound had not changed at all. So, if nothing had changed, then what was the reason for the change in wound measurements? Perhaps, the staff had been inadequately trained, or the assessment time had been insufficient? Needless to say, the inconsistent measurements quickly began to complicate my attempts to obtain accurate wound healing rates.
Improving Wound Healing Outcomes Reporting Through Automation
Around the same time as this was occurring, one of the clinic’s physicians asked me to take a look at a new automated wound measurement system, which she had recently began using in her private practice. As I watched the informational webinar, I was impressed with the system. I immediately began thinking of ways to utilize the system to solve my clinic’s problems with wound measurements. With the use of a smart phone, the software would give me the ability to capture an image and documentation and would provide me with the most accurate wound measurements possible. Then, I could use the data to obtain accurate wound healing rates.
We started using this system nearly a year ago and the results are remarkable. We are now able to use the data collected daily during patient assessments to gain accurate wound healing rates at the click of a button. Furthermore, we have begun using it as part of our patient-teaching protocol. We have found that increasing the patient’s involvement in their wound healing has bettered patient satisfaction and their healing rates. In fact, after using the software to calculate our monthly wound healing rate, we saw that we are achieving monthly healing rates of almost 95%. We are very proud of this number.
All in all, the wound measurement software's ability to accurately capture wound data and rapidly report monthly, population-level outcomes has helped our clinic manage the increase in patient volume and improve patient care. I truly believe this type of technology should be the norm in wound care today.
Product: Mobile Wound Care by Tissue Analytics, Inc.
About the Author
Amanda Steinhauser is a certified wound care nurse with 18 years of progressive leadership experience in the healthcare industry. She has worked from the ground up to build a leading regional wound care center in the nation’s fifth largest metropolitan area. She is currently the clinic coordinator for the Atrium Medical outpatient wound care clinic in Denton, Texas. In addition, she is also a clinical instructor at a vocational nursing program in North Texas.
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