Wound care offers cost savings

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The treatment of advanced wounds is expensive and often complicated, says Patricia Burns, vice president of clinical affairs for Smith & Nephew. Fortunately, advances in technology, as well as a focus on treating patients in the home, can help save the health care system money, and make treatment easier on the patient, she told HME News recently.

HME News: What are some of the economic costs associated with wound care?

Patricia Burns: Significant dollars are spent on wound care and those costs increase when there are complications. Someone might have a routine surgical procedure and if they develop a post-op infection, that can add significantly to the cost of managing the wound, whether it be through re-admission or delayed healing. 

HME: Health care reform is pushing for a reduction in hospital readmission rates. Is wound care an area in which this works?

Burns: Certainly. Efforts to reduce pressure are a quality indicator now, and are reported publicly. Going forward, payers are not going to reimburse for complications associated with that. I think there is a continued need for education for both providers and caregivers around the ideology of pressure ulcers. As we keep patients at home longer, we are going to need to be more aggressive about pressure reduction in the home.

HME: What role does the HME provider play?

Burns: More isn't always better, and HMEs have an opportunity to track appropriate utilization of products. If a dressing was intended to be changed once or twice a week and someone is ordering supplies that far exceed that, that might be a red flag. And with negative pressure wound therapy, patients should respond fairly quickly to it. If someone is 60 or 90 days in treatment, than that also should send up a red flag. I think they have a role in sort of alerting that a patient may not be responding optimally.

HME: Where does Smith & Nephew stand on competitive bidding?

Burns: We are in favor being part of competitive bidding. The concern is to ensure that the providers who participate meet a minimum of standards. It is a medical device and it can be associated with serious consequences if not used appropriately.