Once again, cases of COVID-19 are rising nationally, and authorities warn we may be facing a critical disease spike. For hospitals, another surge in COVID cases likely means significant disruptions in their ability to provide onsite treatment for wound care patients seen in their outpatient departments. Last year, an analysis by Tissue Analytics showed that when the coronavirus pandemic was raging in the spring of 2020, visits to hospital wound centers dropped by 40%, compared to the same period in 2019.1
However, it is possible for hospitals to “pandemic-proof” their outpatient wound care department by having a home-based monitoring and treatment strategy, or what one group of wound care experts calls the Wound Center Without Walls (WCWW).2 The goal is to provide assessment and treatment to patients where they live, thereby minimizing the patient’s risk of COVID-19 and wound infection.
Fortunately, we have the technology tools needed to build the WCWW literally at our fingertips.
Remote patient monitoring is the foundation of at-home care. One of the most important advances in this area is the software that enables pictures of wounds to be uploaded to the patient’s record in the hospital electronic health record system (EHR).
Tissue Analytics (TA) was one of the first companies to pioneer digital wound care technology in hospitals, clinics and other facilities. However, as the use of smartphones expanded to near virtual market saturation, it quickly became evident there was a role for the platform in patient homes as well.
TA’s mobile app allows patients to use their digital devices, such as smartphones or tablets, to send wound images, measurements, and tissue types directly to their electronic health record system (EHR) – including the Nation’s Leading Hospital Information Systems (HIS). (Note – for optimal results, the EHR should be configured with FHIR – Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources – capabilities. FHIR enables your healthcare information to be easily shared and securely available.)
Having these images readily available to clinicians is essential to optimizing self-care at home. In addition, digital imaging enables more accurate measurement and assessment of wounds by clinicians and keeps patients engaged with their treatment plan.
For some wounds, telehealth consultations may be all that is required. One-on-one conversations via video conferencing lead to a better understanding of instructions and greater rapport between clinicians and patients. The video conferencing demonstrations are beneficial in showing patients and caregivers how to change wound dressings.
However, visits by traveling wound care providers may be necessary for complex wound care patients. In this situation, the TA mobile app can monitor and connect to the EHR, allowing clinicians to monitor, communicate, document, and bill for their visits.
Facilitating team-based care
Technology provides the structure for the WCWW, but what about the staff? The WCWW concept’s success depends on effective patient case management by the wound care team, state the experts who coined the term.3
The team must identify the entire patient cohort (caregivers, suppliers, etc.) and determine the optimal strategies to manage each patient.
Technology will expand WCWW
The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the value of telehealth and mobile technology in many areas of medicine, including wound care. Going forward, we will undoubtedly see wider adoption of, and more innovations in, these areas as patients and caregivers become more comfortable connecting with providers via technology and payers support care delivery in any setting proven to improve outcomes and manage costs.
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1Tissue Analytics Analysis of 2020 Wound Care Data. Available upon request.
2,3Rogers, Lee C., et al. Wound Center Without Walls: The New Model of Providing Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Wounds. 2020 Jul; 32(7): 178–185.