Addressing Gaps in Chronic Wound Care with a Virtual Approach

Chronic wounds significantly affect patients’ quality of life, leaving many immobile, unable to work, and financially unstable. They can increase the length of a hospital stay, put patients at a higher risk for infection, and increase the likelihood of readmission due to complications. In the United States, an estimated 2% of the population suffers from chronic wounds, resulting in spending of up to $96.8 billion per year.

Inappropriate or delayed treatment adversely affects the time to wound healing, impacting quality of life, and increasing the burden on patients, their families and caregivers, society, and the wider economy. Identifying non-healing wounds is vital to cost reduction and ensuring patients are not at an unnecessarily increased risk of complications. Despite the known risks, diabetic foot ulcers still have a comparable five-year mortality rate to cancer.

Many patients who suffer from chronic wounds have trouble accessing the care they need though, and experience treatment delays and confusing instructions from multiple providers. Those with wounds on their lower extremities often have to find someone to take them to appointments as they are no longer able to drive due to their condition.


Improving outcomes for patients with chronic wounds

There are three drivers of improved outcomes in wound care: decreasing healing time, improving dressing change frequency, and reducing infection rates, which are impacted by:

  1. Patient-related factors (e.g., underlying pathology/comorbidities, severe pain, psychological factors, gender, and reduced mobility)
  2. Wound-related factors (e.g., ulcer size >10cm, ulcer duration >6 months, anatomical location, and wound bed condition)
  3. Clinical competency factors (e.g., skills and knowledge of healthcare professionals)
  4. Resources and treatment-related factors (e.g., availability and suitability)

Wounds likely to have a slow or non-healing trajectory can be predicted as early as the second to the fourth week of care, requiring early care plan revision and the possible introduction of alternative, advanced therapies. The longer a wound is left without appropriate treatment, the more likely it is to stall during healing, increasing the cost burden not to mention patient pain and discomfort. Accurate assessment and careful monitoring of healing progress are vital to address – especially in the first two weeks.


Better care management through virtual care offerings

Virtual care offers a solution to help these patients see specialists faster and improve their care coordination.

To improve patient outcomes, the management of wound care should be guided by a specialist who can manage patient treatment and perform a comprehensive risk assessment. Reducing wound care costs while optimizing the quality of life for patients with delayed wound healing requires early identification of hard-to-heal wounds and targeted use of advanced wound care products. By partnering with physician extenders, patients can have both the needed in-person care management as well as quick access to specialists to direct their treatment journey.

A study of virtual wound care in 51 community-based patients found that a virtual approach to care connected patients quickly with specialist care providers and gave patients the confidence to better manage their wounds. Most patients found this method of care to be more convenient as they did not have to travel as far or as often and it enabled a more collaborative approach to care.

Hippo’s hands-free, voice activated, wearable computing solutions offer a “through the eyes of the clinician” viewpoint that is vital to proper wound care management, and more effective than conventional telehealth. Our technology enables in-person clinician extenders in the home or at a rural clinic or long-term care facility to remotely connect with specialists, who can view the wound through high-definition cameras and examine the patient as if they were physically in the room, reducing wait time and increasing patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Dr. Alton R. Johnson Jr., a Podiatrist, Podiatric Surgeon, and Wound Care Specialist at the University of Michigan Medical School, has been using Hippo Virtual Care to support clinical practice as well as medical training. “Utilization of Augmented Reality as a means for education and clinical care is inevitable. Very soon, as a provider, it will not be if you use this modality but when and which platform. I truly believe that Hippo Virtual Care will be the preferred choice due to its HIPAA compliance and ease of use.”

Often patients with chronic wounds also suffer from multiple comorbid conditions. The main drivers of chronic wounds are diabetes, vascular deficiencies, or mechanical impacts. By transitioning to advanced wound treatment techniques, wound healing can be improved by a up to a third. Hippo’s unique platform makes advanced treatment accessible to patients while reducing the burden on providers.

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