Steven Bowers, Network Medical Director of Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine, St. Luke's University Health Network
In all fields of medicine, technology is changing and improving how we treat our patients. Wound care is no exception. From improved charting with electronic medical records to new treatment options to expanding access with the use of telemedicine, in wound care offices, technology plays an increasing role in our day to day interactions with patients.
The majority of physicians use an electronic medical record (EMR) for documentation, and in wound care, the way we use EMR’s to document is changing. New imaging technologies improve the accuracy of documentation and facilitate the process. For example, many wound centers still measure wounds with a ruler to document the length x width x depth and describe the type of tissue present in the wound. This opens up the possibility of user error, which may ultimately affect the way the wound is treated and the healing outcome overall. With newer imaging systems like the one from Tissue Analytics, the provider can picture, measure, and analyze the wound in one step, allowing for faster and more accurate documentation.
Another imaging technique that is changing how we treat our patients is fluorescence angiography. A technique that has been used successfully in the OR, this imaging procedure can now help physicians in outpatient wound clinic settings to visualize perfusion to the wound and surrounding tissue.
"This is an exciting time to be part of the growing field of wound care. With millions of patients suffering from wounds and a growing aging population, the field will only continue to expand"
New technology with advanced dressings is also advancing wound treatments. For instance, a product called MolecuLight i:X uses real-time imaging to visualize the bacteria present on the wound itself. This helps the treating provider to make debridement decisions and select appropriate dressings and topical antimicrobial treatments. Bandages themselves have also improved. The smart bandage, for instance, recently hit the market. This bandage monitors the wound with different sensors to gauge markers such as temperature and pH. Current research is examining how these dressings can then respond with different treatments, including antimicrobials, growth factors, or pain medication.
There have also been advancements in skin substitutes and cellular tissue-based products. PolarityTE’s product, SkinTE, uses new technology to grow a patient’s own skin. We have been culturing human skin cells for years to treat wounds and burns, but what is new is the product’s claims to be able to regenerate functional tissue, including epidermis and dermis, along with associated hair follicles and sweat glands.
Finally, the expanding role of telemedicine has hit the wound care field. Many remote areas do not have access to wound care centers, and many patients have restricted mobility or limited access to transportation. Telemedicine allows us to treat these patients anytime and anywhere. Physicians can see patients in their own home or facility with the use of computers, smartphones, or ipads. One major disadvantage is the inability to debride the wound, which is an essential part of what we do as providers to promote faster healing. But advanced dressings can assist in debridement if sharp debridement is not an option.
This is an exciting time to be part of the growing field of wound care. With millions of patients suffering from wounds and a growing aging population, the field will only continue to expand. By using these and other new technologies, we as providers can stay current and give our patients the best possible chance for a successful outcome.