Digital Tools in Wound Assessment and Management

There are very few reliable measures of wound parameters, and fewer still that are guided by digital technologies and can be recorded and used to track healing. Frost & Sullivan has identified several innovative companies that are leveraging digital tools in the development of wound management solutions.

Wound healing involves an orderly and a predictable set of stages: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation of new tissues and tissue remodeling. Any kinks in the physiological processes that control each stage can, of course, delay the healing process. Complications and comorbidities that result in inordinate delays in the healing process cause what are called chronic wounds. Although there isn’t a single stringent time frame for a wound to heal, commonly accepted benchmarks are 15% healing on a weekly basis or 50% improvement within a month. Chronic wounds, which are estimated to affect between 2 and 4 million people in the United States alone, become truly worrisome when they remain unhealed for a period of three months. Some clinicians and researchers—Elizabeth Grice, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, among them—describe chronic wounds as a “silent epidemic.” The first step in combating this epidemic is to diagnose it, which helps clinicians understand the progress (or deterioration), and then design an effective treatment program to help the healing process.

There are very few reliable measures of wound parameters, and fewer still that are guided by digital technologies and can be recorded and used to track healing. An urgent clinical need exists for accurate wound measurements, and innovative digital tools are being developed to satisfy it. Conventional wound care offerings fall short in this area, but a clutch of information technology companies are filling the void by using their expertise in image analysis and data management to offer significant intelligence to clinicians, patients and home healthcare workers. 

Frost & Sullivan, in its ongoing healthcare industry research, has identified several innovative companies that are leveraging digital tools in the development of wound management solutions. They offer solutions ranging from better diagnostic platforms to products for treatment planning, care coordination and progress monitoring. 

Parable Health, Inc. (New York, N.Y.)

Parable Health has developed an analytics platform that allows doctors and patients to monitor the progress of a wound, and to identify red flags at an early stage and prepare for course correction. Its SmartCapture software program is built into an iPad or a camera-enabled smartphone. When the physician or the patient at home takes photos of the wound site, the program automatically retrieves salient metrics through image analytics. This includes physical measurements such as length, breadth and depth of the site, and a three-dimensional qualitative analysis. A stack of images taken over days aligns well for time-lapse analysis of wound progress. Parable Health caters to outpatient and ambulatory settings, as well as remote monitoring and post-surgical follow-up.

Digital MedLab GmbH (Zurich, Switzerland)

Digital MedLab’s +WoundDesk also is a software program that can be integrated into a smartphone or an iPad. However, this is positioned as patient management software, and as an approach to better document medical cases, collaborate with partners and gain real-time insights. +WoundDesk performs wound surface assessment and provides a severity score that clinicians can use as a measure of progress and to supplement their professional opinions to tailor treatment planning and estimate the duration of hospital stays.

WoundVision (Indianapolis, Ind.)

WoundVision’s Scout is a handheld imaging tool for advanced visualization of the wound site. Scout performs visual and infrared-based imaging and offers noninvasive monitoring of the site. The device’s infrared capabilities allow for physical and physiological monitoring. The Scout feeds information to the physician about blood flow and metabolic activity, and identifies differences between affected and unaffected tissues. The use of infrared imaging also provides professionals with thermal mapping, which is another indicator of tissue health. Scout has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for noninvasive wound monitoring.

WoundZoom, Inc. (Stevens Point, Wis.)

WoundZoom’s specially designed tablet contains a built-in 3-D image sensor that can capture the length, breadth and width of a patient’s wound without coming in contact with it. The software program calculates the surface area and volume and also serves as a data management tool. WoundZoom, through both the tablet and its Web portal, helps collate patient information and easily integrates with a hospital’s electronic health records, which is vital to creating a seamless digital network and eliminating double documentation.

The Road Ahead

The ubiquity of smartphones and tablets and the availability of digital tools is empowering patients to take an active role in chronic wound management. This is of particular consequence of the millions of diabetics who suffer from foot ulcers. The American Diabetes Association estimates that nearly 15% of diabetics will develop foot ulcers at some point in their lives. As the incidence of diabetes increases among American youth, these digital tools will prove to be of even greater importance in the years to come. The ongoing SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, found that the rate of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes cases in Americans younger than 20 increased about 4.8% annually from 2002 to 2012. The rate of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes cases in this population climbed about 1.8% each year during the same period. The CDC says obesity—a diabetes risk factor—remains too high as well, affecting about 12.7 million children and adolescents aged 2 to 19, or about 17% of the population. 

The rapid development of artificial intelligence platforms will add even more value to future generations of wound care products. 

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