Rural Wound Care and Smartphone Technology

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by Karen Zulkowski DNS, RN, CWS

Five million US rural residents live in designated provider shortage areas. A provider shortage area is defined by the federal government as counties with fewer than 33 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. It is believed this shortage will be worse by 2014. Not surprisingly, rural residents and primary care providers rate their health care lower than their urban counterparts. Few specialists are available in rural areas with rural areas having half the number of surgeons and other specialists compared to urban areas.

Few wound care specialists are available in rural areas. There are 18 American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM) certified wound care specialists (CWS) in Montana with all but one located in the larger cities. There are three CWS certified persons in Wyoming and all are located in the larger cities. North and South Dakota and Alaska have a similar scarcity of CWS providers meaning a large geographic area of the country does not have access to expert wound help and care. The small number of wounds and rapidly changing treatment and dressing market would also make it difficult for a small rural facility to keep current.

So what should we do? One solution may be use of smartphone technology. A 2012 survey found 67% of surveyed registered nurses and 60% of surveyed advance practice RNs already use smartphones at the point of care. Among surveyed physicians, 40% said they use smartphones during patient consultations. Linking smartphone technology to an expert wound clinician in a HIPPA-compatible manner may be one way to allow small rural facilities to use current evidence at the bedside.

Do you use smartphones for care? If so, what sort of applications are you using it for in your patient care? Would you use this technology for wound documentation and consultation? Let me hear from you!

About The Author
Karen Zulkowski DNS, RN, CWS is an Associate Professor with Montana State University-Bozeman, teaches an online wound course for Excelsior College, and is a consultant for Mountain Pacific Quality Improvement Organization. She has served as a Research Consultant with Billings Clinic Center on Aging, and was the Associate Director for Yale University’s Program for the Advancement of Chronic Wound Care.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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