Pressure Ulcers: Painful, Dangerous, Expensive and . . . Preventable

The ICS wound care team is a huge success. Pressure ulcers – also called bed sores, pressure wounds or pressure injuries – are very painful and often deadly. Prevention is effective, yet 2.5 million Americans get pressure ulcers each year and 60,000 die as a result. These wounds are also hugely expensive to treat, costing from $20,900 to $151,700 per wound, according to the U.S. Department of Health – adding up to $12 billion dollars each year.

ICS wound care team Director Dee Visco recently discussed the costs of wound care and the importance of prevention.

People with physical disabilities are inherently at risk for pressure injuries. In fact, anyone with a spinal cord injury has an 80 percent chance of developing a pressure wound. In addition to reduced mobility, many have incontinence, diabetes, and other conditions that increase their risk of skin and tissue breakdown. And people with spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and other conditions that affect the nervous system often have a loss of sensation that prevents them from feeling a dangerous pressure sore as it is forming. People with dementia or other chronic conditions that keep them immobilized or in bed for long periods are also at risk.

The ICS wound care team has cut the number of new pressure injuries our members develop by 35 percent and reduced the number requiring hospitalization for pressure injuries by 58 percent. This dramatic drop in the hospitalization rate is particularly noteworthy because life-threatening wounds are often made worse or multiplied by a hospital stay.

Dee credits organization-wide buy-in for the success in bringing down both the development of wounds and members’ hospitalization rate.

“It started at the top,” Dee says. “Our founder, Rick Surpin, foresaw the importance of having a wound care team. Our biggest success is that wound prevention has become a culture here at ICS. The knowledge we have has permeated the entire organization. Care management staff, social workers, team leaders, the service ordering unit, wheelchair techs, physical therapists – they all understand how and why this is important. The wound care team works with staff across the whole organization; everybody gets what we do and embraces it.”

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