Funded by Sydney Health Partners as part of their Rapid Applied Research Translation Grant program, the Virtual Wound Care Command centre provides expert care and advice to wounds patients across NSW, saving them from travelling hours to see a doctor and preventing possible readmission to hospital.

“There are 400,000 Australians currently living with a chronic wound, a wound that hasn’t healed appropriately, but this burden is largely hidden by the spread of patients with wounds throughout different areas of a hospital, and then by inconsistent monitoring and follow-up after patients are discharged,” says Dr Michelle Barakat-Johnson, Skin Integrity Lead Nurse Manager at SLHD and Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney.

Dr Barakat-Johnson oversaw the setup and implementation of the centre at RPAH with Aaron Jones, Chief Nursing Information Officer.

“Patients might receive really great care from their current specialist but often require additional, specific wound care that isn’t readily available to them, especially when they’re discharged home.”

The Virtual Wound Care Command centre aims to fill this gap.

The centre builds on previous work with Tissue Analytics, an artificial intelligence app that can be loaded onto a patient’s phone, and lets clinicians remotely monitor the wound’s progress through photos taken by the patient or their local clinician.

Tissue Analytics serves as a key point of communication between the patient and the wound consultant in-between virtual consultations within the Virtual Wound Care Command centre, which are held via videoconference.

“The benefits of the Virtual Wound Care Command centre have been felt particularly during COVID, and for patients who live long distances away from specialist wound care,” says Dr Barakat-Johnson.

Previously patients would be left largely on their own to manage their wounds post-discharge - waiting for, then travelling to, specialist follow-up appointments. If they needed advice urgently but couldn’t get hold of their physician, they would often present to Emergency, sometimes unnecessarily.

“Now, a patient with a chronic leg ulcer in a rural setting without a local GP has immediate access to wound care advice, and the nurse that visits them in their home would have access to that expert wound  advice as well,” says Dr Barakat-Johnson.

Before a patient with a wound is discharged from hospital, they are referred to the Virtual Wound Care Command centre, where a wound consultant photographs the wound using Tissue Analytics, then teaches the patient how to do the same when at home.

The app uses an advanced image recognition algorithm to analyse the wound, providing the wound consultant with quantitative information about the wound as well as treatment advice. This information is verified by the consultant based in the centre and is automatically uploaded into the patient’s electronic medical record.

“The model of care has had really positive feedback from patients,” said Dr Barakat-Johnson. “They love seeing the progress of their wounds in photos, and the ongoing monitoring and communication - without having to travel back to hospital.”