Preventing Pressure Ulcers – Saving More Than Just Money

January 23, 2018

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Pressure Ulcers – An Unnecessary Problem

Pressure ulcers are defined as a localized injury to either the skin or underlying tissue, often over a bony prominence that occur as a result of pressure or sheer. These ulcers cause significant pain and can lead to very serious infections, so for patients who suffer from one – pressure ulcers are a very serious problem.

According the Department of Health and Human Services the number of patients in the United States that develop pressure ulcers exceeds 2.5million each year. The American College of Physicians (ACP) estimate that in the U.S. prevalence ranges from 0% – 17% in home care, 0.4% – 38% in acute care hospitals and 2% – 24% in nursing care facilities.

Along with the very real dangers caused by pressure ulcers, there is a significant cost in providing patients with the care and treatment they need. Over $11 billion is spent every year in the US with individual patient costs ranging from $20,000 to over $100,000.

Ulcers are extremely painful, and in more serious cases can result in severe injury and even death. The most worrying statistic of all is that approximately 60,000 patients die as a result of a pressure ulcer every year.

Pressure injuries are a global problem and the National Health Service (NHS) in the U.K. says it is a significant issue with over 700,000 patients being affected across all care settings, including patients in their own homes. Out of that figure approximately 186,000 patients develop a pressure ulcer whilst in hospital each year. Each pressure ulcer adds additional costs of care of over £4,000 – this accounts to a total cost of £3.8 million every single day to the NHS. Statistically the most vulnerable patients in the U.K. are aged over 75.

The Health Service Executive in Ireland, where Trulife are headquarted, has estimated that the cost to treat a single patient with a Grade IV pressure ulcer at almost €120,000 with a total cost of approximately €250 million spent each year in treating patients.

Whilst pressure injuries are a big problem for patients the good news is that in the vast majority of cases they are preventable. Following correct risk assessment and prevention guidelines is very important to tackle the problem. A good prevention strategy starts with the identification of high-risk patients.

In 1988, Pamela Hibbs put forward her hypothesis that 95% of pressure ulcers can be prevented. When this target is reached, patients will have a much better quality of life.

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The Stories behind the Statistics

A 2017 study conducted by the New Zealand Health Quality and Safety Commission highlighted a number of cases where patients did not undergo the correct risk assessments which lead to pressure injuries.

The story of one patient is very common….. John was waiting for 36 hours in the emergency department and could not move sufficiently. When admitted to the ward there was no risk assessment completed and it only took place four days later. The nurses noted some reddening to the skin, but no preventive measure was put in place. On day 10 after a very serious operation the patient was classed with a Grade III pressure injury.

Another case tells the story of Danny, who suffered a spinal injury and was unable to walk. His first pressure injury occurred some years later when travelling on a long-haul flight without the support of a pressure reducing cushion. This caused a breakdown of the skin resulting in a pressure ulcer. Since then he has had similar occurrences which greatly impacts his working and family life.

In both cases proper assessment and procedures could have saved each patient significant complications.

Stories similar to these from around the world have made the medical industry take note and thankfully things are moving in the right direction.

What’s changing in the industry?

A number of excellent initiatives such as Stop Pressure Ulcer Day, led by National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, have helped to raise awareness of the problem.

Another significant factor is that the medical industry has been investing heavily into research and new product development to improve conditions. Advancements in both procedures and technology are taking place to prevent pressure sores occurring to avoid the huge cost of treating them. Several very exciting developments now help medical professional provide better assessments of vulnerable patients……

New Risk Assessment Tools


Purpose T was developed by a team of nurse researchers in the U.K. and is based on the most up to date data in the field. It is a new three-step assessment process that uses a new color-coded system to evaluate patients.

The first step quickly excludes patients who are not at risk. Step-two sees a full assessment of the patient taking place and looks at critical issues such as how freely the patient can move and history of pressure injuries. Step three is an analysis of the results and then patients are assigned a category based on their chances of being at risk.

Early feedback from trials has been very positive and much research is planned.

Learn More about Purpose – T.

SEM Scanner

Another exciting development is the SEM Scanner which is an early detection technology that has the power to detect possible issues and notify nurses so that they can prevent pressure ulcers before they break the through the skin.

During some of the trials the results were very impressive and pressure ulcers were reduced to 0% in the wards where the SEM Scanner was tested. This highlights the fact that with proper procedures in place and the correct pressure care techniques being applied many injuries can be almost entirely prevented.

Learn More about SEM Scanner.

Toolkits & Guides for Improving Care

The AHRQ has developed an excellent toolkit that can be used by hospital staff and carers in preventing pressure ulcers. It covers everything from an organizations readiness, to best practices and procedures that help in the prevention of a pressure injury.

Similarly, the Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers Quick Reference Guide by the EPUAP, NPUAP and PPPIA has plenty of very useful information that medical professionals can use.

No Pressure – Changes in Clinical Practice

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement outline a several key areas that if applied could greatly reduce pressure injuries:

How Do We Eliminate the Occurrence of Pressure Sores?

Thankfully pressure sores are now being seen as a priority, but work still needs to be done.

Ultimately the benefit of prevention is that it can save billions in treatment costs worldwide each year, but more importantly it can save countless people’s lives.

Find Out More

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Trulife has developed an innovative Pressurecare Range that greatly reduces the risk of pressure injures by carefully minimizing pressure. Please get in touch or download a catalogue if you would like to learn more.

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