The cost of treating pressure wounds in residential aged care can be reduced by using more sophisticated products and better techniques that result in faster healing times, new research indicates.

The small pilot study published in the International Wound Journal aimed to develop a tool to calculate the pressure injury treatment in an aged care setting.

The research was undertaken by clinical nurse consultant in wound management and University of Melbourne master’s student Lauren Wilson, who observed and recorded the wound treatment of 20 participants with 23 pressure injuries at a Victorian Regis Aged Care facility over four months.

Ms Wilson developed an evidence-based practice model that looked at what dressings could be used to provide the quickest healing time and measured the costs of this model, the actual practice treatment and projected treatment.

The research found the cost of treatment to healing for all participants under an evidence-based practice model was $99,693 over a total of 2,322 wound days, or $42.93 per day.

The actual practice treatment during the study period was similar at $98,489 over 3,547 total wound days, or $27.77 per day, for all 20 participants. However, 19 pressure injuries were still not healed so the cost was ongoing.

The overall projected cost was $104,510 for treatment 14 days after completion of the study and $116,552 after 42 days, according to the study.

The evidence-based practice model uses more expensive and “sophisticated” dressings but results in lower overall costs, said research co-author Dr Suzanne Kapp, co-ordinator of Master of Advanced Nursing Practice at The University of Melbourne.

“The cost of treating wounds with more expensive products might be higher per dressing but if you get a quicker healing time, then the overall cost is lower,” co-researcher Dr Kapp told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“The costs of dressings, nurse hours and of equipment to relieve pressure would be lower because you would be paying for it for fewer days,” she said.

The study found that dressings were changed every 1.6 days, which was frequent and contributed to the increased costs of treatment, she said.

“Ideally we would have changed wound dressings less frequently and used more sophisticated products,” Dr Kapp said.

Sophisticated products include antimicrobial dressings, which are used for people who have chronic wounds and products that contain silver or iodine properties, she said.

Dr Kapp said raising awareness of pressure injuries in aged care and providing more education to staff are among the ways to reduce the economic burden of pressure injuries.

“We always have to invest in education and training of staff, community awareness and participate in research studies,” Dr Kapp said.

She said aged care providers should participate in research to generate more data on pressure injuries and related costs.

“Saying ‘yes, we want to be involved’ and recognising that pressure injuries are a problem everywhere in all aged care facilities will be beneficial,” Dr Kapp said.

Access the paper, The direct cost of pressure injuries in Australian residential aged care setting here.

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