Challenges in chronic wound care: the need for interdisciplinary collaboration

Posted by MedTech Europe on 23/02/12

Many Germans suffer from chronic wounds (mainly leg, pressure or diabetic foot ulcers) and their numbers grow by 650,000 annually. Wounds of all sorts have a major impact on patient function and quality of life, and may be life-threatening. In addition, providing wound care is a significant cost to the healthcare system. These types of wounds alone cost healthcare payers an estimated €5 billion annually.

Wound care is present at all stages of the healthcare continuum – from the GP’s office to the hospital room to the long-term care institution, and every stop in between. The issue also involves all three main healthcare disciplines: nursing, surgery and general practice specialty physicians.

According to the United Nations, in 2009, 1% (6 – 8 million) of the European population was affected by wound care, representing 2% of the European health budget.

Evidence suggests that the treatment of chronic wounds will become an even greater challenge to healthcare systems in Europe as the population grows older, given the problem’s exacerbation with age. Bearing in mind the significant impact of wounds on patient health and on the resource costs to healthcare providers, appropriate diagnosis and treatment are essential.

Many of Eucomed’s member companies are dedicated to designing modern and cost-effective wound care technologies to support and/or improve the various stages of the healing process with the ultimate aim of improving patients’ quality of life.

Eucomed’s Advanced Wound Care Sector (AWCS) Working Group strives to increase awareness throughout Europe of the burden on patients suffering from chronic wounds. The group’s primary goal is to gather and improve the available evidence of this challenge in order to build an understanding of how patients may benefit from modern advanced wound care that extends beyond basic wound dressings to include all players in the ambulant sector.

The Cologne-based Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWIG) is spearheading research on the benefits and drawbacks of medical interventions for patients on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Health. IQWIG prefaces an explanation of its methodologies with a quote from Bertolt Brecht’s “Life of Galileo”:

The chief cause of poverty in science is imaginary wealth. The chief aim of science is not to open a door to infinite wisdom but to set a limit to infinite error.”

I understand Brecht’s expressions “wisdom” versus “error” as metaphorical expressions for “scientific evidence” versus “gaps in evidence, care, information, quality and/or effectiveness” a characterisation that can certainly be used to describe the current situation in the chronic wound care space. At the end of the “gap-chain” is the patient, who stands to suffer from this general lack of awareness about the complexity of a medical phenomenon and its variety of underlying diseases.

Furthermore, I believe we need to develop a collaborative culture in the field of wound care. This might include joint campaigns among stakeholders aimed at policy makers and key influencers, training sessions and widespread sharing of best practices. Together we can improve medical care, awareness of the issue and even change behaviour.

A multi-disciplinary care approach to certain chronic diseases that continues beyond hospital discharge is of pivotal importance. We have to tackle the need to improve quality and efficiency, particularly in ambulatory care management. Eucomed, in cooperation with the European Wound Management Association (EWMA), is working to shape this vision of a collaborative and sustainable culture – a culture committed to tackling the gaps in advance wound care treatment and ensuring a healthy and safe future for wound care patients.

Johannes Georg Boettrich
Member, Eucomed Advanced Wound Care Sector Group
Dr. rer. nat. / Medical Scientific Affairs OPM
B. Braun Melsungen AG

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