Wound care standardization: How it drives clinical and financial outcomes — and total value

Healthcare systems face multiple pressures: clinical pressures, economic pressures and pressures to deliver outstanding patient experiences. These pressures are all felt in areas such as infection prevention and wound care where inconsistency and lack of standardization can exacerbate an organization's clinical and financial challenges. These challenges are compounded for larger healthcare systems.

In a September Becker's Hospital Review webinar sponsored by Mölnlycke Health Care– a world-leading medical solutions company that specializes in wound care and surgical solutions — Rachel Clark, Southeast Area Sales Director  for Mölnlycke, and Elizabeth Faust CRNP, CWOCN, a certified nurse practitioner and wound care nurse at West Reading, Penn.-based Tower Health, shared insights into how standardizing wound care products and protocols can improve outcomes and the bottom line.

Four key takeaways were:

  1. Now is the time for healthcare organizations to consider wound care standardization. Clinically, variability in practice, protocols and solutions can lead to variability in outcomes and compromised care. From an economic standpoint, lack of standardization results in unpredictable costs due to inefficiencies as increased staff time is spent both in determining a care approach and learning about various products. Lack of standardization also results in higher product costs, more product waste and increased reimbursement risk.

Another trend driving the need for standardization is the investment hospitals are making in the "hospital at home" care model, which demands consistent practices, regardless of care setting.

"Standardization reduces complexity across the continuum of care," Ms. Clark said. "Wound care standardization means establishing a standard of care using evidence-based protocols and solutions to drive total value across the care continuum." One analysis found that the main reasons that organizations consider standardization are to improve outcomes (63 percent), standardize on products and care protocols (60 percent), reduce contracted prices (35 percent) and improve patient satisfaction (33 percent).

  1. In making standardization decisions, the key is to focus on total value. As hospitals face cost and margin pressures, a typical scenario is to seek savings on each line-item purchased. But "total value requires a shift in thinking," Ms. Clark said.

For wound care, what matters is not the per-unit price of wound care products, as wound care products make up a small percentage of the total cost of care. What matters is the total treatment cost and total cost of care. To achieve a lower overall treatment cost it may be appropriate to invest to achieve better outcomes, greater efficiencies, improved safety and enhanced patient experiences.

Ms. Clark cited an example of a facility in New York that standardized their advanced wound care portfolio. "Over a 7-month period, they had a 63 percent reduction in HAPIs, $438,000 in savings through treatment costs avoided and an ROI of 132 percent."

  1. In large health systems, the need for standardization is even more important. Tower Health in eastern Pennsylvania is a major system that cares for 2.5 million patients through five acute-care hospitals and two wound care centers. Tower Health sought to standardize wound care to ensure consistency and remove variability across facilities and home-care environments.

Tower Health has partnered with Mölnlycke on a standardization action plan. This project team has involved all key clinical and supply chain personnel in a collaborative process. Results to date include a reduction in wound care SKUs from 134 to 72, a reduction in vendors from 14 to 9, focused training, streamlined supply rooms and simplification for clinicians. "Even small changes have a large impact," Ms. Faust said. "That's important because any inefficiency is multiplied for a larger health system."

  1. When standardizing wound care, choose a strong partner. Mölnlycke helped focus Tower Health's wound care portfolio to a comprehensive list that clinicians trust and that meets the vast majority of needs. Standardizing also gave Tower Health the clinical and financial evidence it needed to gain buy-in. "In the end, a standardization project will save you time and money and allow your patients to have the best products available," Ms. Faust said.

The time for wound care standardization is now, given the clinical and financial environment that health systems face today. Choosing a strategic partner like Mölnlycke can help drive total value and better outcomes.

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