Improving patient care in a new landscape
by: John Timmons, International Medical Director, Mölnlycke Health Care
Maybe the strangest year in my lifetime so far would be how I sum up 2020. Words that were not in the public vocabulary are now in everyday parlance. Face masks, PPE and viral epidemiology all feature in our daily news bulletins.
We now speak of the R number and local lock downs like they were something we have always known. Behind the headlines there are hidden healthcare time bombs. I had minor surgery this summer and the vascular surgeon who operated on me said the only other surgery he had performed this summer was amputations. Patients who had complex vascular and diabetic foot problems but had not presented to hospital as a result of the COVID-19 virus, were now presenting with severe symptoms for which amputation was the only solution.
Somewhere in all of this, there are other groups of patients with chronic conditions who will be struggling to access healthcare. Some hospitals report that as many as 25% of patients with cancer were not likely to present for treatment due to fear of COVID-19 virus. Among this group of patients there are those with chronic wounds. It has become apparent that many patients with chronic wounds may have had reduced access to care during the COVID-19 crisis. Many of the most vulnerable in society across the globe will have been affected by the lock downs initiated in most countries and with hospitals struggling to cope with COVID-19 patients the chances of presenting at a healthcare facility would be pretty low.
So with many patients facing more time alone what can we do to help? How can we engage with patients when there are likely to be restrictions in place? As a starting point, Molnlycke have recently developed self-care guidelines for patients which aim to help promote safe and effective self-care when patients and carers may have reduced access to healthcare practitioners. The simple guide helps answer some of the more common questions and address some of the issues patients may face. This is available on the Molnlycke Advantage website.
So how do patients with chronic wounds feel about their treatment? This year, Molnlycke sponsored the development of the World Union of Wound Healing Societies (WUWHS) consensus document on the role of patient engagement in optimising wound care. The document explored the feedback from patients who were attending a wound care clinic focus group and also involved patients in the creation of the consensus statements. A global expert panel met to explore the patients ideas and opinions and then create some guidance as to how we as health care professionals and industry can begin to really value the patient when it comes to wound care decision making. It was a privilege to be involved in the creation of this document and listening to patients tell their stories about how their wounds affect them and their daily lives, from the all encompassing challenges facing the EB patient with dressing changes taking hours to the elderly lady who simply needed the security of a dressing that stayed in place and allowed her to mobilise. For many patients it was about the small things, feeling involved in their care, talking to someone about their wound and that wounds are an important but much belittled chronic condition.
Driven by the need for better engagement, there have been some great initiatives to utilise smart phones and laptops in order to set up virtual consultations which are proving to be a vital part of patient care going forward and in particular in rural areas where patients are isolated could be game changing.
It is looking like things are going to get worse before they get better so I think we need to start putting ourselves in the patients shoes. What would we want our care to look like? How can we engage patients more? How difficult is it to access good wound care? Some of these topics were discussed by a group of experts on the recent Molnlycke talks session and the overwhelming consensus was that Covid will have a significant impact on the chronic wound patient population and we need to do better at anticipating these challenges and how they are addressed. The next Molnlycke Talks Online has been scheduled for November 23rd 7pm CET.
Finally, can I urge you to explore the Molnlycke Advantage Website where there is an amazing range of clinically relevant educational content to help support you and your patients, we are all in this together and we want to help you in any way possible to achieve better outcomes for you and your patients.