Clinical unity and community empowerment: the use of smartphone technology to empower community management of chronic venous ulcers through the support of a tertiary unit

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Quinn, Edel M.
Corrigan, Mark A.
O'Mullane, John
Murphy, David
Lehane, Elaine
Leahy-Warren, Patricia
Coffey, Alice
McCluskey, Patricia
Redmond, H. Paul
Fulton, Greg J.
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Background: Chronic ulcers affect roughly 60,000 Irish people, at a total cost of €600,000,000, or €10,000 per patient annually. By virtue of their chronicity, these ulcers also contribute a significant burden to tertiary outpatient vascular clinics. Objective: We propose utilizing mobile phone technology to decentralise care from tertiary centres to the community, improving efficiency and patient satisfaction, while maintaining patient safety. Methods: Bespoke mobile software was developed for Apples iPhone 4 platform. This allowed for the remote collection of patient images prospectively and their transmission with clinical queries, from the primary healthcare team to the tertiary centre. Training and iPhones were provided to five public health nurses in geographically remote areas of the region. Data were uploaded securely and user end software was developed allowing the review and manipulation of images, along with two way communication between the teams. Establishing reliability, patients were reviewed clinically as well as remotely, and concordance analysed. Qualitative data were collected through focus group discussion. Results: From October to December 2011 eight patients (61-83 yrs, mean 75.3 yrs) with chronic venous ulceration and their five public health nurses were recruited. Data were transmitted using 3 G, Edge, GPRS and WiFi, at a mean speed of 69.03 kps. Concordance was 100% for wound bed assessment, 80% for skin integrity/colour and 60% for exudate assessment. Focus group analysis explored the concept, practicalities and future applications of the system. Conclusions: With an evolving national data network, the secure transmission of clinical images is a safe alternative to regular clinic appointments for patients with chronic venous ulceration. With further development, and packaged as a freely downloadable application, this has the potential to support the community care of chronic wounds.
Leg ulcers , Wound care , Telemedicine
Quinn EM, Corrigan MA, O’Mullane J, Murphy D, Lehane EA, Leahy-Warren P, et al. (2013) Clinical Unity and Community Empowerment: The Use of Smartphone Technology to Empower Community Management of Chronic Venous Ulcers through the Support of a Tertiary Unit. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78786. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078786
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