Challenging times often call for new solutions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy is finding success using video visits for wound care patients. This success could provide improved access for wound patients beyond the pandemic.
Clyde Cottrell suffers from diabetes. Just as the pandemic was starting in February, he was hospitalized for eight days at Mercy Hospital Jefferson, where he was treated for a diabetic ulcer on his foot. After spending time in another facility for rehabilitation, Cottrell went home to quarantine and follow precautionary stay-at-home orders. These restrictions kept him away from Mercy Hyperbaric and Wound Care – Jefferson for the follow-up wound care he needed.
“We knew Clyde needed regular checks of his wound to ensure he was making the progress he needed,” said Dr. Julie Weber, wound care specialist. “Our solution was to work with our home health team and skilled nursing facilities for video visits.”
Once a week, a home health co-worker would visit Cottrell to check on him while he conducted a video visit with Dr. Weber. The home health worker also would change Cottrell’s bandages.
“Dr. Weber was able to keep up with me and my progress,” said Cottrell. “Being able to do that within the comfort of my own home was pretty simple.”
“For many of our patients, like Clyde, a video visit provides us the information we need to ensure a patient is making progress in their healing,” said Dr. Weber. “A big key is that the video visits can alert us to when we need a patient to come in for further care.”
“It’s different without the personal contact from Dr. Weber,” Cottrell added. “But absolutely, it worked out great and provided a good open line of communication.”
Cottrell and other patients are now able to return to the wound care center. In-person visits are preferred, when possible, to provide complete care such as comprehensive wound assessment, bedside debridement or advanced wound care for specific diagnoses. These advanced treatments include biological skin grafts and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Cottrell has been able to resume his hyperbaric oxygen treatments to speed his recovery.
Video visits will continue to be an option.
“Since starting these video visits, we’ve found them to be extremely helpful in certain situations where there are obstacles to having a patient come to us,” said Dr. Weber. “Think about patients who live in nursing homes or who have transportation or other issues that keep them at home. We’re ready to see them while they stay home.”
Video visits require the patient to download an app to their smartphone or other device that has a camera.
“Downloading the app was pretty self-explanatory,” said the 58-year-old Cottrell. “Getting on the video call was easy.”
Video visits are available through many of Mercy’s wound care facilities including at Mercy South (St. Louis), St. Louis, Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith, Ark. Medicare and most commercial insurance plans cover video visits for wound care. Mercy recommends patients confirm the benefits of their specific plan with their insurance provider.