“You must welcome change as the rule, but not as your ruler.” ~Denis Waitley
It has been said that change begins when you step outside of your comfort zone. WCA COO Rylan Smith has seen many changes in the wound care industry over the past 20 years, but nothing compares to the past few months. Here, he answers common questions from wound care providers looking to successfully navigate the pandemic and move forward.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted wound care providers and the industry, in general, and what will it look like a year from now?
A: I think COVID-19 has actually elevated the need for wound care in the healthcare community. Wound care isn’t an emergent service line, but it is a critical service line because it serves many chronically ill patients and ensures that they don’t over-tax the healthcare system with emergency room visits and inpatient stays. The role that wound centers play in this pandemic highlights the need to treat these patients in the most appropriate care environment so hospitals can have the bandwidth to deal with the more acute and critical patient populations. Every community needs to have a wound center and I think we’ll be seeing hospitals, especially in non-urban communities, building centers where they currently don’t exist. One of our driving core values is that we believe everyone, everywhere, should have access to advanced wound care. I think we will start to see that vision come to fruition.
Q: Many outpatient wound care clinics report being back to full capacity, but some are still struggling. What steps can they take to boost patient volume?
A: Step one is contacting patients who were converted to telehealth visits or patients that didn’t feel comfortable coming into the center. You have to educate your patient population about the safety measures that were put into place. Once you have done those things, then it’s just good old-fashioned community education. The only difference now is that in light of COVID-19, many visits will still need to be done virtually.
Q: How has the pandemic impacted inpatient wound care in hospitals?
A: Hospital inpatient wound care has definitely been a challenge, as we’re dealing directly with patients who are positive or highly suspected for COVID-19. During this period, we’ve implemented rigorous health & safety protocols in order to treat patients effectively. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has increased a patient’s overall risk of developing pressure injuries, so now more than ever, having a strong inpatient wound care team is important.
Q: For patients who are unable to come into the clinic, telemedicine is an option and it looks like it’s here to stay. What are the limitations and how do you see this impacting wound center programs, long-term?
A: The major limiting factor of telemedicine is that wound care is procedure-based medicine. Our providers are not able to effect change on the wound through telemedicine, but it has been an effective tool in terms of maintenance of the wound. Long term, I believe it will help us drive compliance with our patients because we can insert telemedicine visits in between weekly visits. If we’re able to monitor wounds more effectively and ensure compliance with the prescribed treatment protocol, we may be able to reduce the number of days it takes to heal some of these wounds.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted new patient volumes? How can physicians in the community be encouraged to refer patients for treatment?
A: We believe a large number of patients have postponed treatment for their wounds during the last three months. What we are currently seeing is a higher acuity of wounds because of delayed care. I would assume that this higher acuity will continue for the next couple of months, but as people become more comfortable in this next “normal,” then we should see a return to volume prior to COVID-19. I believe that the referring physicians in the community are just as eager to make sure their patients are treated for these wounds as the wound centers are about receiving them.
Q: For communities that have a need for outpatient wound care, what suggestions do you have for hospitals considering the development of a program during the pandemic?
A: Now is the perfect time to develop a program if your community doesn’t already have one. The reality is that COVID-19 isn’t going away and this chronically ill patient population needs a safe and effective environment to get treatment. For patients with wounds left untreated, they will break down, become infected, and they will end up in the emergency room later to be admitted. The best course of action is to deal with the wounds early and get them healed, reducing the likelihood of infection. Developed and implemented correctly, a wound center is an extremely effective contributing department to any healthcare system.
If you have questions about your wound care program or need help adapting to industry changes due to COVID-19, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.