Smartphone app detects SSIs through patient sent photos

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Researchers from the Wisconsin Institute of Surgical Outcomes Research found a smartphone app to be a potential tool in detecting surgical site infections (SSI) and preventing additional hospital admissions. Findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Surgical site infections (SSIs) remain the leading cause of hospital readmission. In this study, researchers evaluated the feasibility of using WoundCare, an app where patients send images of their wound for review by a clinician to detect the onset of SSIs.

"Patients cannot identify [infections] and frequently ignore or fail to recognize the early signs of cellulitis or other wound complications," wrote first author Rebecca L. Gunter, MD, and colleagues. "This drawback leads to the common and frustrating scenario where patients present to a routine, scheduled clinic appointment with an advanced wound complication that requires readmission, with or without reoperation. However, the complication may have been amenable to outpatient management if detected earlier."

A total of 40 vascular surgery patients were enrolled in the study where they uploaded photos of surgical sites and answered questions on other aspects of their health. Data submission rates were measured at 90.2 percent, and app submissions were reviewed in an average of 9.7 hours. Overall, the app detected seven wound complications with only one false negative.

"We set out to come up with a protocol where patients could become active participants in their care and allow us to be in closer communication and monitor their wounds after they leave the hospital," said Gunter. "This approach allows us to intervene at an earlier time rather than waiting for patients to come back in after the problem has already developed past the point of being able to manage it on an outpatient basis."