June 5, 2023 | Net Health

3 min read

The Impact of Chronic Wounds Runs Deep for Patients, Providers, and Payers

Awareness months are synonymous with deserving topics, but some, however worthy, fall short of wide recognition. Designated by the American Board of Wound Management (ABWM), June is Wound Healing Awareness Month.  That makes it the ideal time to think about the message behind the observation of an area in healthcare that, though prevalent, is still often overlooked.

There are nearly seven million people living with a chronic wound in the U.S. Due to an increase in diabetes, obesity and aging population, the number of cases is expected to rise. With the limited mobility that these populations often have, proper treatment is essential for preventing amputation, decreased quality of life, and higher mortality rates.

The Cost to Life and Limb

The statistics around wounds are troubling.  Consider that every day, 230 Americans with diabetes will have a lower limb amputated, the majority of which are because of a diabetic foot ulcer that did not heal.  More concerning is that approximately 75% of diabetic foot ulcers may be preventable with increased awareness, accurate patient history availability, and access to care. 

Pressure injuries (PIs), or bedsores make up another large category of wounds, with around 2.5 million people suffering from them each year, with the elderly and those with limited mobility being most at risk. Many of these occur in hospital settings, and result in the second most common hospital lawsuit behind wrongful death.

Surgical site infections (SSIs) also affect many patients, with more than half a million occurring each year, usually around 30 days after surgery. According to one study, 77% of surgical patient deaths were the result of an SSI. For both chronic wound conditions, monitoring across settings, patient education, and access to care are crucial in preventing and treating wounds that can quickly become a severe threat to patients’ health.

The Toll on Society 

The cost to treat wounds weighs heavily on payers, whether the patient, employer, or hospital is picking up the tab. The annual cost to manage diabetic foot disease in the U.S. has reached $13 billion, while the country spends another $26 billion caring for patients with hospital-acquired pressure injuries (HAPIs). The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that a pressure injury adds $43,000 in costs to a hospital stay, with HAPIs costing hospitals $70,000 per case. Surgical site infections can cost up to $30,000 per case, extending a patient’s hospital stay for more than a week, and sometimes taking months to heal.

Human Touch Meets Technology

While there’s a long way to go to ensure better healthcare access, prevention and care for wounds, we’re on the right path.  Progress has been made with innovative wound technology solutions, giving wound care specialists a new way to reach underserved and high-risk patients, as well as reason to believe that the staggering statistics of today are not those of the future.

For example, digital wound surveillance applications such as Net Health’s Tissue Analytics allow clinicians to receive and track their patients’ progress from anywhere with the use of a smartphone camera.  

Predictive analytics help determine who may be at risk for amputation with the simple upload of a wound image, changing the game for those with diabetic foot ulcers. Advanced wound dressings that promote moist wound healing, reduce infection, and enhance outcomes have revolutionized the way clinicians care for all chronic wounds, including PIs, SSIs and burns.  

More exciting innovations are on the horizon as the use of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to expand in wound care.

And that is really good news for everyone. Throughout this month and beyond, let’s celebrate the strides that have been made and focus on expanding access to promising technologies and future innovations that will help all patients with wounds live better and healthier lives.

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