Surgical Wound Monitoring from Home

Wound care

A smartphone app called WoundCare is successfully enabling patients to remotely send images of their surgical wounds for monitoring by nurses. The app was developed by researchers from the Wisconsin Institute of Surgical Outcomes Research (WiSOR), Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, with the goal of earlier detection of surgical site infections and prevention of hospital readmissions. The study results appeared on the website of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

“Patients cannot identify [infections] and frequently ignore or fail to recognize the early signs of cellulitis or other wound complications,” study authors wrote. “This drawback leads to the common and frustrating scenario where patients present to a routine, scheduled clinic appointment with an advanced wound complication that requires readmission, with or without reoperation.”

Forty vascular surgery patients were enrolled in the study. Each was provided an iPhone 5S and an accompanying visual reference guide to assist in using the phone and app. During the study, seven wound complications were detected and one false negative was found.

Study authors note that the success and sustainability of a post-discharge wound-monitoring protocol requires a dedicated transitional care program and not simply adding a task to the current staff workload. This protocol also has a cost-savings component, in addition to the patient safety and satisfaction aspects, study authors noted. Surgical site infections are the most expensive hospital-acquired infection, costing an average of nearly $30,000 per wound-related readmission and an estimated $3 billion to $10 billion annually.

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