Data, data and more data — this is the mantra that has guided Dr. Sheila Wang as she transforms wound care with an innovative smartphone app taking hold across North America.
“To date, we have the world’s largest scientifically calibrated wound database because the uptake is so high,” she said.
That database — built with millions of wound photos — is a result of the Swift Skin and Wound app.
Less than two years ago, Dr. Wang received a $20,000 Joule Innovation Grant for the app. At the time, her goal was to improve the best practice for collecting wound data, which involved using a paper ruler and a cotton swab.
Now, her app is helping monitor more than 450,000 beds every month in eight provinces across Canada and in all 50 US states. More than 3,900 health care institutions have adopted the technology.
Using the Swift app on their smartphone, both patients and clinicians can take photos of chronic wounds. An adhesive reference marker, which looks like a small circular sticker, is placed next to the wound to calibrate every image for size, colour and lighting.
The photos provide clinicians with precise measurements of the wound, including length, width, depth, area and colour. They can monitor healing progress without seeing patients in person.
The app also includes a dashboard for clinicians so they can access medical data such as whether patients are at risk of a wound deteriorating, or of developing a new wound.
Next on the horizon is a large-scale clinical trial that is close to approval.
“We are going to demonstrate what the advantages are with this,” she said.
For Dr. Wang, one of the most rewarding aspects of her innovation has been that patients can take ownership of their own care.
“This is a very personalized tool,” said Dr. Wang. “Every wound is different — how they change, how they heal.”
Initially, the app was intended for clinicians, but that didn’t last long. Educating patients on how to properly collect data while caring for their wounds has become a priority. To meet this need, Swift has recently released an app for patients.
“Patients were always asking to use it,” she said. “Taking care of wounds is not an easy thing to do. We don’t understand all the mechanisms that lead to poor wound healing.”
The big picture
Dr. Wang explained that wound care has long been neglected in health care. In Ontario alone, chronic wounds cost $1.8 billion annually.
With COVID-19 cases surging across Canada, virtual access to wound data is more important than ever.
“Patients would rather be at home than in a hospital,” said Dr. Wang.