Augmented Reality to Improve Patient Outcomes With NPWT
Introduction: Augmented reality (AR) is a burgeoning digital technology that is finding more frequent use in health care. The benefits of AR, such as hands-free imaging and remote viewing, make this a tool particularly suited to wound care. To the author’s knowledge, no attempts have been made to leverage this technology in a way that might improve patient outcomes. Similarly, few studies on remote wound consultation focus on the inpatient setting.
Objective: This study demonstrated the use of AR to improve the outcome of patients undergoing negative pressure wound therapy.
Materials and Methods: A case-control study of 27 patients treated in a rural Louisiana hospital was performed. A retrospective control group (n = 15) was identified and compared with similar cases (n = 12) that used AR by the bedside nursing staff and an offsite certified wound care clinician.
Results: At univariate analysis, the treatment group was found to have fewer unintended surgical revisions (P =.002), fewer interruptions in therapy time (P =.01), and fewer readmissions related to wound infection (P =.004) compared with the control group. Correlational testing was performed and showed a significant correlation between the number of dressings performed and the number of complications that arose (0.71) as well as between premature dressing removals and number of readmissions related to infection (0.74).
Conclusions: The results of this study, although preliminary, show how AR can be used in the acute care setting to positively influence outcomes of patients undergoing wound care. Further testing is necessary to replicate these findings and assess the use of AR with other advanced modalities or for other indications in the acute care setting.
Digital technology is already immensely integrated within health care, but new innovations in this space could result in unconventional opportunities to improve patient outcomes. Augmented reality (AR), which is the enhancement of reality by virtual content, is one such innovation. Augmented reality has many uses in health care, such as education, remote viewing, and hands-free imaging and/or data retrieval. The AR device uses a heads-up display, which allows for information to be relayed and displayed in real time to the wearer via an Internet-connected device (Figure 1). The integrated cameras in the device enable the wearer to virtually livestream their point of view. The use of AR to virtually assess wounds has been found to have promising reliability.
Close-up photograph of the augmented reality device, which features integrated cameras and a display.
Negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) is a wound care technique wherein an open-cell foam dressing is placed into the wound bed and controlled subatmospheric pressure is applied. The use of NPWT has been found to improve wound closure rates, shorten hospital stays, and decrease hospital readmissions. These benefits are sporadically hindered by technical or proficiency-related complications that typically arise when there is a deficiency in staff skill level needed to troubleshoot issues. This is noted most prominently when clinicians with advanced training are not readily available, such as at night and on weekends.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether the use of AR has the potential to improve outcomes in patients undergoing NPWT by means of decreasing the frequency and severity of complications that would result in failure of NPWT or premature dressing removal.
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