April 5, 2023 | Cathy Thomas Hess, BSN, RN, CWCN

4 min read

An In-Depth Q&A With Cathy Thomas Hess, Chief Clinical Officer of Wound Care

 

What Wound Care Providers Ask Me the Most About Our Profession, Process, Technology and What’s Next for our Industry

Net Health’s Cathy Thomas Hess is well-known in the wound care industry. She’s been in it for over 35 years; has written books and book chapters; is a sought-after speaker at conferences; is an expert witness for the Office of the Inspector General; and has written hundreds of articles. Because of her expertise, she gets asked questions . . . lots of them. Following the busy fall wound care conference season, Cathy shared with us some of the most common questions about wound care.

What was wound care like when you first started practicing?

It was often like working without a net in the early ’80s. We didn’t have wound care best practices or the Electronic Health Records (EHRs) that we have available today. To illustrate how we created our own best practices, I clearly remember being asked to see an obese patient with a very large abdominal wound and copious amounts of drainage. I was asked to figure out how to manage the wound and contain the drainage. My solution was placing a large amount of foam in the wound’s cavity, covering the wound with an Antimicrobial Incise Drape and using wall suction to manage the drainage. It was an effective wound dressing management choice in the ’80s and applied prior to the introduction of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy in the early ’90s. I learned a lot about wound management during this period of time, specifically about the importance of sharing best practices and processes and mentoring the wound care teams.

What’s one of the biggest wound care problems hospitals and clinics face today?

There are many issues to tackle, from staffing to payment to regulations to penalties. And, of course, the most crucial problem is ensuring what we do helps our patients. We need to solve multiple problems – we can’t limit them to one. We need better clinical and operations workflows, efficient technology systems to overcome obstacles and better ways to improve documentation methods and patient outcomes, thereby increasing time with patients and providing compliant care to ensure we don’t face penalties. Honestly, it is difficult to name just one clinical wound care problem to address. But, solving clinical problems is important to Net Health. 

One of the most recent clinical problems we have tackled is developing our Pressure Injury Deterioration Risk Tool. We know that hospitals are penalized thousands of dollars annually – for some, it adds up to millions – for Stage 3 and Stage 4 pressure injuries. Our model predicts pressure injuries likely to deteriorate, helping clinicians proactively identify at-risk pressure injuries to improve patient outcomes and reduce possible penalties. That’s an example of how technology, with dedicated partners, can help organizations solve problems.

What advice would you give a busy wound care department struggling to maintain or even improve performance and outcomes?

Anyone who has met me knows the answer to this question is workflows. Let’s talk briefly about how inefficient workflows diminish a return on investment or ROI. Recently, I had the privilege to work with a multisite hospital system that was looking to improve its HAPI Reduction Program. When we reviewed their current workflow, we uncovered the clinical and operational processes that were causing delays in treatment and in missed documentation, untimely medical record management, delays in coding and compliance and so on. 

Identifying inefficient workflows was critical. These inefficiencies diminished the health system’s ROI, causing compliance and quality risks, hidden costs, missed revenue and unnecessary expenses. I have seen how these workflow challenges, or gaps in care, can be solved with the right technology. I knew we could do it.  We worked with this hospital’s team to show how we could take an inefficient multi-step process – one that had taken more than 30 minutes and streamlined it to 5 minutes or less. So, I advise looking for technology and workflow that will save you time and money and improve your outcomes.

Why do you think more people aren’t embracing wound care technology? 

Trusting technology has not always been easy for providers and nurses. We also all know that change can be hard. New technology can be especially difficult.  However, we must learn to trust it and become competent for it to have value. The pain of not changing is worse than the status quo. Think about the benefits gained from moving from manually counting an IV drip rate vs using smart, computerized IV pumps or leaping into using a smartphone vs. a landline. The key to your success is having an experienced partner to help you uncover your current methods and workflows and pivot to smarter workflows with data that makes the technology usable. 

Next, find resources you trust – talk to people who have embraced the technology with a solid implementation and training plan and time to gain competence with the new technology. Then look at your outcomes – start to see and appreciate your improvements. Trusting technology takes a trusting partner, and that’s what we strive to bring daily. 

For more information and insights from Cathy, check out additional content she has developed below:

Billions in Costs for Chronic Wounds

Access the infographic
 
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