Tele-Wound Care: The Use of Telemedicine in Ongoing Wound Care
Telemedicine is becoming a vital component of wound care.
Wounds present a unique challenge to most physicians. Many doctors will need to physically see the size, depth, coloration and other factors as to properly diagnose and treat the actual wound. Yet in recent years, telemedicine has begun to transform the health care industry. It’s a unique dynamic for sure, given that the lack of proximity that many electronic devices – tablets, computers and smartphones for instance – impose on doctors. Regardless, telemedicine has still offered most medical experts profound new tools in how they approach ongoing wound healing.
The methods of telemedicine
Given the sheer amount of devices available to most physicians, there are a number of unique approaches these professionals can take to the wound care process. In 2012, Dr. Ravi K. Chittoria outlined a few of these techniques in a study published in the Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery. They include:
- Storage: In this model, pictures of the wound(s) are taken and then stored on an electronic server. The images are then accessed at a later date for diagnosis.
- Video conference: As the title might suggest, doctors and patients communicate using real-time video. According to Chittoria, there is a diagnostic accuracy between 67 and 80 percent.
- Mobile: Similar to the storage approach, doctors use mobile devices to access imagery of various wounds. And, much like video, there is a chance for physicians to ask questions.
Chittoria explained that while anxiety still exists regarding telemedicine applications, there is plenty of data supporting its continued implementation.
Despite feedback from certain doctors, including Chittoria, the question remains just how effective telemedicine can be as it pertains to ongoing wound care regimens. To better understand telemedicine’s larger impact, a group of medical researchers from University of California, San Diego held a trial run featuring a group of 120 patients, all with long-term wound issues. For the sake of the study – published in the journal Wounds – patients were visited by a nurse, who then cataloged and photographed patients’ wounds for a specialized wound surgeon. Chief among the results, just two patients’ final care plan differed between the face-to-face consultation with the nurse and the surgeon’s final suggestion. The researchers also explained that the telemedicine approach had a sensitivity rating of 94 percent, meaning that physicians confirmed the scope and immediacy of the wound care plan in 112 patients.
Many of these same experts noted that hospitals or physicians’ offices are hesitant to rely more heavily on telemedicine consultation. To better grasp these doctors’ apprehension, several experts from the UC San Diego study surveyed physicians regarding the perceptions of telemedicine. They later published the findings in the International Journal of Telemedicine and Applications. Among the primary concerns raised, physicians wanted to be able to better reduce any uncertainties generated during a consultation. Doctors also wondered how to use telemedicine in case a patient’s wound somehow worsened. Despite these concerns, though, 93 percent of the physicians found that telemedicine was greatly useful, and 50 percent found that telemedicine helped develop crucial bonds with patients.
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