When most people think about chronic conditions, certain disease areas come to mind – diabetes, heart disease, obesity, asthma, allergies…the list goes on. However, it is unlikely that you think about chronic wounds as being part of that list. Why is that?
Given that wounds impact 4 million Europeans per year (more than cancer and diabetes), it seems odd that so few people are aware of the impact on people, healthcare professionals and health budgets in Europe. For those who have heard about chronic wounds, it’s likely because a friend or relative has acquired a pressure ulcer in hospital, or had an infection after surgery, or maybe even faced foot amputation due to complications from diabetes. These wounds are often preventable with the right knowledge and treatment options available.
A growing burden
Yet, even though health systems are spending anywhere from 2 – 4% of healthcare expenditure on wounds, the burden of wounds continues to rise and will likely increase dramatically as the population ages and the incidence of diabetes grows. The average cost of a treating a wound is €6.000 – €10.000 per year and complications and readmission can significantly drive up costs (Gottrup et al. 2010). And on any given day in Europe, 27-50 % of acute hospital beds are likely to be occupied by patients with a wound (Posnett et al. 2009).
So how can we reduce the burden of wounds on health systems? We can do it through smart investment in smart technologies.
Because chronic wounds can cause multiple hospital readmissions and prevent individuals from working, EU Member States must begin to invest in solutions outside of acute settings that allow patients and healthcare professionals to prevent, treat and cure chronic wounds at home and in the community. Products and services such as Portable Negative Pressure Wound Therapy have proven to support patient well-being, promote healing, and minimise complications. But Member States aren’t reimbursing these products for patient use.
The need for long-term thinking
If we are to truly decrease the burden of chronic wounds and diseases, it is essential that Member States invest in innovative products and services outside of acute settings. Member States have the opportunity to incentivise care in the community and reduce pressure on health budgets, but the focus must be on long-term objectives rather than short term savings. There are many factors which impact on the disease burden, but investing in advance wound care therapies, by extending their use outside of mainstream treatment centres, can go far towards improving patient quality of life, employability and cost savings for health systems.
– Ameer Ally, Chair, Eucomed Community Care Working Group