Imagine presenting to the hospital for your planned cesarean section, a time of great anxiety and joy. During the procedure you unfortunately have a complication and an enterotomy (cut into the intestines) is made, but missed at the time. Hours later you develop increasing abdominal pain and a rash spreads quickly across your abdomen. Your healthcare providers explain you have an infection called necrotizing fasciitis and this requires further surgery to treat the condition. The individual then wakes up possibly weeks later with most of their abdominal wall, upper thigh skin, some muscle layers missing of both the abdomen and thigh, as well as stool draining from the middle of the wound. The individual is informed they have an enterocutaneous fistula that will likely not be able to be repaired for several months to a year. This person is finally able to transition home with their newborn, a gaping abdominal wound, stool draining from the wound, not allowed to have anything to eat or drink, and are attached to intravenous nutrition twenty-four hours a day. This would be overwhelming for the most health literate patient, much less an individual with limited resources and low health literacy.
Our health can change quickly with an unexpected surgery that causes a complex surgical wound. This wound must be monitored closely in the outpatient setting to prevent further complications including loss of limb or possibly life. Typically the patient’s wound care has been provided in the home by a home health nurse. Subsequently the patient and family caregiver are then expected to travel to the doctor’s office for intermittent follow-up examinations of the wound over a weekly to monthly schedule which could last up to one year or more postoperatively. Leaving the patient’s home with these complex wounds can be a burden due to factors such as increased pain, time-consumption, financial costs, and possible embarrassment if the wound or ostomy appliance leaks. Some of this burden could be relieved with virtual visits.
Overview of Problem of Interest
In the United States 6.5 million individuals are affected with chronic wounds that require ongoing care (Sen et al., 2009). Patients are expected to travel to their healthcare provider’s office for follow-up examinations and sometimes this requires a long care ride, wait in the office, and then travel home. It is difficult to maintain a dressing on the wound in the most basic of circumstances, such as during times of everyday activity in their home. With the addition of traveling this can become an overwhelming and untidy endeavor while the healthcare provider will likely only spend minutes examining you. Due to this some patients will not come to their follow-up appointment and this can be detrimental to their health by prolonging wound healing, increasing risk for infection, and delay future surgical repairs. When the individual is at home, they require home health services for ongoing wound care as well as provision of supplies. The home health nurse sees the patient on a more regular basis than the healthcare provider and will call the providers’ office with important changes they note. Unfortunately this process may take several phone calls which takes valuable time for the home health nurse and increases wait time for care of the patient.
Most patients have an expectation that surgery will help them heal or cure their disease. Unfortunately approximately 22% of patients may experience moderate to complete postoperative disability (Shulman et al., 2015). Home health nursing will provide some relief for the patient and a multidisciplinary approach is necessary to manage complex treatment modalities (Wilkins, Lowery, & Goldfarb, 2007). In Carolinas Medical Center Main in 2014, 3229 patients had wound care provided by our wound ostomy care nurse team and of those 820 were surgical patients (G. Caldwell, personal communication, January 25, 2015). These are many of the patients that require ongoing care in the outpatient setting to prevent further complications.
In the United States (US) in 2000, forty million inpatient surgical procedures were performed and at that time the need for post-surgical wound care was sharply on the rise (Chittoria, 2012). In the US the amount of money spent on wound care, diminished quality of life, and the loss of productivity for the individual and caregiver comes at a great cost to our society (Sen et al., 2009). Therefore it is in our best interest as providers to provide safe and effective care to our patients in the most convenient format for both the patient, caregiver, home health nurse, and the healthcare provider.
Review of Literature
One of the first steps to address a problem is reviewing evidence available to support the proposed intervention. Virtual care is currently being used in many different platforms such as urgent care, psychiatric care provided in ER’s, preventing readmissions in heart failure patients, and many other venues. The examination of acute and chronic wounds is one venue that has found success. In the plastic surgery population where visual exam is heavily relied upon for decision-making, telemedicine has been shown to have great potential. Gardiner and Hartzell (2012) performed a systematic review of twenty-nine articles. Twenty-eight of the articles noted a benefit including improved access to expertise and cost reduction through conserving hospital resources and avoiding unnecessary transfers (Gardiner & Hartzell, 2012). Wallace, Hussain, Khan and Wilson (2012) had similar findings in the burn population where they noted improved assessment and triage, avoidance of unnecessary transfers and a potential for health care savings when using virtual care. In the trauma population a 90% accuracy was noted in assessing traumatic plastic surgery injuries whether the practitioner was using bedside visual exam or transmitted digital images (Gardiner & Hartzell, 2012).
Wilkins, Lowery, and Goldfarb (2007) used their initial investigation to determine the feasibility of virtual wound care and then moved forward with performing a pilot study using a store and forward technique. At the time of initial referral the mean wound surface area was noted to be 5.85 cm2. Using virtual care the authors noted in 58.2% of the wounds, the diagnosis or treatment plan was changed. This change in diagnosis or treatment plan resulted in an average decrease of 58% from the initial wound size over an average time period of 40.2 days. The authors went on to note 95.5% of patients found telemedicine consultation more convenient than traveling and 98.2% of patients were either satisfied or very satisfied with the care they received (Wilkins, Lowery, & Goldfarb, 2007).
An article published in 2014 by Kidholm, Dineseen, Dyrvig, Rasmussen, and Yderstraede was noted to be the largest and most comprehensive research project to evaluate telemedicine effectiveness and costs for patients with chronic diseases. The results revealed telehealth reduced mortality with an odds ratio of 0.54. Mortality in the control group was noted to be 8.3% while the intervention group was 4.6%. The authors also noted a 10.8% lower hospital admission rates in the intervention group with an odds ratio of 0.82 (Kidholm, Dinessen, Dyrvig, Rasmussen, & Yderstraede, 2014).
Telemedicine may be applied to many different aspects of medicine, but a benefit has been shown in the examination and long-term treatment of wounds (Wilkins, Lowery, & Goldfarb, 2007). Telemedicine has been shown to satisfy both the clinician as well as the patient, while continuing to provide quality care. Therefore a solution to the burden of traveling to the doctor’s office, decreasing financial strain, decreasing caregiver strain, and improving access to care are all potential benefits of providing care using virtual visits.
Purpose of Project
The purpose of incorporating telemedicine into our surgical practice is to provide our patients with the most efficient high quality care in the most appropriate setting for the patient. A standard office visit consists of the patient traveling to our office, being evaluated by the medical team, and then having to travel back to their home. This evidenced based project will allow the patient to stay in their own home and have the providers visit them via a virtual visit. Upon discharge from the hospital the patient will be evaluated for inclusion into the virtual visit program. If the patient is determined to meet the criteria including living in NC, using Healthy at Home to provide home health services and have a complex surgical wound; then an appointment will be made for the virtual visit. The home health nurse will proceed to the patient’s home at the assigned appointment time and use their tablet for the visit. The provider will then join the home health nurse in the virtual setting and the patient’s wound will be evaluated. Appropriate changes in the treatment plan for the wound will occur and the provider will assure all questions/concerns are addressed with the patient, caregiver, and home health nurse.
One desired outcome for this project will be to maintain a high level of patient satisfaction, as we do in our office. As providers, we would like to provide more efficient care and this may be possible by having one provider performing postop visits virtually while another provider evaluates new consults in the office. It will be important for this project to provide the same level of care that we provide in the brick and mortar office, as well as following all current standards of care.
The facility where this project takes place is a Magnet facility. To receive this designation an organization must prove they have several key characteristics including empirical outcomes as well as integrating evidenced based practice and research into operational and clinical processes (American Nurses Credentialing Center, 2014). An important goal for our organization this year will be to provide care in new ways, one of which will be providing more opportunities for our patients to experience virtual care. This innovative project is meant to assure that we are improving quality, enhancing value and dealing with the complexity of health care today (Harris, Roussel, Walters, & Dearman, 2011).
The backbone of quality improvement work is the team and their teamwork (Ogrinc et al., 212). The team for this project will include individuals from different disciplines to ensure success. The author of this paper will serve as the operational lead on the project, assuring all aspects of the project are coordinated. Our administrative lead will be the practice manager for our outpatient sliding scale clinic. He will be able to assist the project in assuring we meet meaningful use standards as we do in the office, as well as building templates in our scheduling software, and facilitate changes in the organization. A management associate with the virtual care division will remain part of the team, as she has had past experience with implementing similar projects and has provided invaluable support. The next member of the team will be a member of the IT department and will assist the team in choosing the right technology/platform for this project. He will not only assist in the beginning stages of this project but will be a constant resource for ongoing IT support. The administrator for the home health agency will be a member of this team, she will provide information regarding her organization and provide us with establishing workflow for the home health nurse. This will be an important step as this project is meant to provide multidisciplinary care, however it will not be beneficial for it to provide more efficiency for our team but not the home health team. The chairman of surgery who also serves as the interim lead of the acute care surgery team, as well as the two surgeons who practice on the same service. This team will serve to bring virtual care visits to our surgical practice.
Risk Management Strategy
It is important to examine every project to identify external and internal items that either positively or negatively affect the project. One type of assessment that can be performed is the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis (SWOT analysis). During the SWOT analysis the system is fully examined from the clinical micro to the macrosystem perspective (Harris, Roussel, Walters, & Dearman, 2011). For this project some strengths noted include other departments within the facility using virtual visits and a department dedicated to assisting new groups to use this technology. Another strength is the patients included in this project will remain in the global ninety day postoperative fee which will not require reimbursement from insurance companies and keep the cost incurred limited. It is important to then examine some of the weaknesses which include removing a provider from an already overbooked clinic to participate in this project, the additional cost of the technology, and surgical postoperative care has not been provided in this manner in our facility prior to this. When further evaluating opportunities associated with this project, the ability to be the only surgical providers providing care virtually will set this team apart and appeal to more consumers and home health agencies. Another opportunity would be to include all home health care providers in our area and obtain licensure to be able to provide virtual visits in South Carolina. Some threats to this project include newer technology that hasn’t been tested, a good working relationship with the home health agency must be in place, and is it possible for the team to provide confidential care to our patients using virtual visit technology.
Organizational Approval Process
Initially this project was approved at the departmental level after multiple discussions with the chairman of surgery for the metro division of our healthcare system. Prior to proceeding to the IRB process, the facility requires submission of your proposal to the Nursing Scientific Advisory Council (NSAC). Once NSAC has evaluated a proposal fully and any revisions have been completed you may move forward with your submission to the IRB.
Role of Information Technology in this Project
Information technology will play an integral part of this project. Although virtual visits are used throughout the hospital system, they have not been incorporated into the surgical practices within our system. This project will include an IT tech to assist in choosing the best platform to serve our patient population while being user friendly for our home health nursing colleagues. It will be important for our platform to work well with the technology available to the home health nursing team. This will assure we are able to provide the best quality visit and address not only the provider’s needs, but also the home health team, patient, and caregiver. The project needs IT support for both the onsite provider as well as the home health team in the patient’s home.
Plans for IRB Approval
An institutional review board (IRB) is a committee that is mandated by the National Research Act, Public Law 93-948 and is required in institutions that conduct biomedical or behavioral research that involves human subjects (Harris, Roussel, Walters, & Dearman, 2011). IRB approval will be sought for this project using the Carolinas Healthcare System’s IRB. The submission type will be expedited. This approach was chosen because it is evidenced based research and poses minimal human risk to the participants (Chatham University). Prior to approval by the IRB this project must be submitted to the NSAC therefore this will be performed in September 2015. Once approval has been obtained by the NSAC the information will then be submitted to the IRB for approval, likely in November 2015. This letter can be reviewed in Appendix A of this paper.
American Nurses Credentialing Center. (2014). Magnet model. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet/ProgramOverview/New-Magnet-Model
Chatham University. (n.d.). Institutional Review Board (IRB). Retrieved from http://my.chatham.edu/tools/irb/
Chittoria, R. (2012). Telemedicine for wound management. Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, 45(2), 412-417.
Gardiner, S., & Hartzell, T. L. (2012). Telemedicine and plastic surgery: A review of its applications, limitations and legal pitfalls. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery: JPRAS, 65(3), 47–53. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2011.11.048
Harris, J., Roussel, L., Walters, S., & Dearman, C. (2011). Project planning and management: A guide for CNLs, DNPs, and nurse executives. Sandbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Kidholm, K., Dinesen, B., Dyrving., A, Rasmussen, B., & Yderstraede, K. (2014). Results from the world’s largest telemedicine project-The whole system demonstrator. EWMA journal, 14(1), 43-48.
Ogrinc, G., Headrick, L., Moore, S., Barton, A., Dolansky, M., & Madigosky, W. (2012).Fundamentals of health care improvement: A guide to improving your patients’ care(2nded.). Oakbrook Terrace, IL: The Joint Commission and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
Sen, C. K., Gordillo, G. M., Roy, S., Kirsner, R., Lambert, L., Hunt, T., . . . Longaker, M. T. (2009). Human skin wounds: A major and snowballing threat to public health and the economy. Wound Repair and Regeneration, 17, 763-771.
Shulman, M. A., Myles, P. S., Chan, M. V., McIlroy, D. R., Wallace, S., & Ponsford, J. (2015). Measurement of Disability-free Survival after Surgery.Anesthesiology,122(3), 524-536. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000000586
Wallace, D., Hussain, A., Khan, N., & Wilson, Y. (2012). A systematic review of the evidence for telemedicine in burn care: With a UK perspective. Burns, 38, 465-480.
Wilkins, E., Lowery, J, & Goldfarb, S. (2007). Feasibility of virtual wound care: A pilot study. Advances in Skin & Wound Care, 20(5), 275-278.