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Can New Technology Really Reduce Pressure Sore Incidence?
- Posted by: curtislegalwp
- Category: Uncategorized
Pressure sores lead to more deaths in the U.K. than any form of cancer, except lung cancer. It’s not just the human cost but it’s the financial drain on an already hard pressed National Health Service, too. It has been estimated that the NHS spends more than 2.1 billion pounds on dealing with pressure sores, either monitoring them, or treating them once they have developed. That’s 4% of the entire NHS budget. Can new developments in technology help to reduce this figure or is the incidence of pressure sores an indicator of institutional or individual wilful neglect and negligence which can only be reduced by vigorous legal action?
One development in medical technology which may make a difference in the future is a pressure sore monitoring tool, the SEM scanner, developed by U.S. biometric company BBI. One of the reasons why pressure sores go unnoticed is that it takes regular visual inspection of at-risk areas of a patient or an elderly person who remains immobile for hours at a time. The problems often arise when nurses or care workers fail to maintain regular monitoring because of overworked schedules, lack of training in identifying emerging sores, or plain neglect. It’s the latter category that will be most unlikely to be affected by new tech. discoveries.
The new SEM scanner has already been approved for use in Britain, as it has in Ireland and Canada. It is to be submitted for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that it can be used for at-risk patients and other people in the U.S as well. Currently, 2.5 million people in the U.S. develop pressure sores every year, of which 50,000 people die from their effects.
What is different about the SEM scanner is that it detects pressure sore development before a sore actually emerges from the surface of the skin. The scanner still has to be used regularly by nurses or care staff, but it can detect potential sores before they can actually be spotted visually. As long as the hospital or nursing home responds to the information provided by the scanner, it means they have a much better chance of treating sores before they become dangerous to health.
Pressure sores can become ulcerous and the infection can spread to surrounding tissue and bone, which can lead to pain, ill health and in many cases premature death. 500,000 people in Britain every year develop pressure sores and 2.5 million across Europe.
The initials “SEM” stand for sub-epidermal moisture, which helps to explain how the SEM scanner works. It detects moisture changes beneath the skin’s surface which are typical of developing sores. These are not signs that can be detected by sight alone.
The scanners have already been touted as reducing the incidence of pressure sores in the hospitals in Canada and Britain where the scanners were trialled. Altogether, 1,200 people who were considered potentially at risk took part in the survey. 7 hospitals reported that the scanner enabled them to reduce pressure sore incidence to zero and 2 other hospitals said they achieved a 90% reduction rate.
The scanner doesn’t actually eliminate the need for daily inspection of persons at risk. What it does is reduce the time taken to identify a potential problem and reduce the time used on anyone who is not regarded as a risk because of what the scanner reveals. This should ultimately lower the cost of treating pressure sores and lower the incidence rate itself as well.
What it won’t do, of course, is have any effect in institutions where normal expected daily routine checking and monitoring does not take place. Buying scanners is unlikely t happen in an institution where negligent attitudes prevail. It is important that relatives who suspect that their loved one is not being looked after properly to bring the matter up with the management as promptly as possible. If there is no satisfactory improvement and fears for that relative’s health prevail, it will be important to contact a pressure sore solicitor to discuss legal options available.