Why Wound Care Matters

Published on July 27, 2022 by Natalie Vaughn

Wound care is essential in nearly every care setting, affecting patients across the care continuum. Understanding why wound care matters to both patients and caregivers alike is key, as wounds can prolong hospital stays, increase the risk of infection, and quickly raise costs for healthcare facilities.

A common issue requiring wound care is pressure injuries, which affect 1 to 3 million people per year in the U.S. alone. While pressure injuries occur in most care environments, they are particularly prevalent in both long-term and post-acute care environments — including hospice and home health settings — where patients remain sedentary for extensive periods of time. As the median age of the U.S. population continues to rise, an increasing number of people require wound care services, including treatment for pressure injuries.

Wound care nurses also commonly care for patients with diabetes, and an estimated 15% of people who have diabetes develop foot ulceration. According to the CDC, about 37.3 million people (or 11.3% of the U.S. population) had diabetes in 2019. In the U.S. alone, chronic wounds, which can include diabetic foot ulcers and pressure injuries, impact an estimated 6.7 million individuals, and more than $50 billion is spent on treatment every year.

Chronic wounds are unfortunately common and defined as those that “do not progress through a normal, orderly, and timely sequence of repair.” They can be costly from a patient harm perspective and are often incorrectly treated.

Why Wound Care Matters to Patients

Patients with a diverse range of health conditions rely on effective wound care to manage their treatment and keep them safe from infection. The importance of wound care in any care setting (acute, post-acute, or home care) relates to the ability to reduce a patient’s pain and promote healing as quickly and completely as possible.

Caregivers providing wound care perform a wide variety of critical services, from assessing diabetic foot conditions and mitigating infections to developing treatment plans and caring for pressure injuries. Wound care matters to patients because it can improve their quality of life, get them home sooner, and prevent them from acquiring other types of infections while in the hospital.

Effective wound care also includes proper education that can prevent patients from returning to the hospital. Education is one of the most important parts of any wound care nurse’s job. Through verbal instruction and hands-on training and demonstrations, wound care nurses empower patients and their families with a sustainable, self-sufficient care routine they can follow outside of a hospital setting.

Why Wound Care Matters in Care Settings

The wound care scope of practice involves a lot more than cleaning and dressing wounds. Chronic and acute wounds require the attention of experts equipped with the skills to monitor and assess wounds effectively while simultaneously educating patients on at-home wound care best practices. A wound care nurse’s main priority is patient safety, but understanding the financial implications and how to avoid penalties for their organization is also key.

While many hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) have decreased due to concerted efforts and new quality regulations, pressure injuries continue to be a challenge for hospitals and health systems.

Beginning in 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) refrained from paying for pressure injuries that were acquired in the hospital, among other HACs. This policy has been costly for hospitals and health systems. Treating a pressure injury can cost $500 to more than $70,000 for a hospital per injury.

Besides avoiding the negatives associated with healthcare acquired pressure injuries, informed wound care practices can include understanding positive incentives, such as wound care prevention best practices. Because CMS recognizes the expertise required, specializing in wound management can bring organizations higher reimbursement opportunities. The more organizations understand why wound care matters, the more successful they’ll be with prevention and management best practices.

Demonstrating Wound Care Improvement

As hospitals and care facilities dedicate time and resources to wound care improvement, gaining a holistic view of the current approach is a great first step. This will help determine who might be missing from the effort, if resources are being used incorrectly, or show a gap in communication between departments.

When assessing your organization’s status in terms of wound care, some helpful questions to answer include:

  • What types of wounds are most common among your patient population and among referring organizations’ patients?
  • Are any clinicians or therapists on your team are Wound Care Certified?
  • What is your organization’s incidence of healthcare acquired pressure injuries?
  • What is the organizational culture, and what are your team members’ attitudes related to wound care?

It’s important that the organization as whole — from leadership to those providing patient care — understand why wound care matters. Having a comprehensive understanding of how wound care can negatively impact patients — and the organization — will help drive improvement to provide high quality patient care, keeping them safe and healthy.

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Natalie Vaughn

Natalie Vaughn has worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with more than half of her experience dedicated to healthcare quality improvement. At Relias, she partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. She obtained a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in marketing, driven by a passion for understanding consumer behavior, branding strategies, and leveraging thought leaders as innovators within a given industry.

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