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NHS hospitals report ulcer reduction with scanner

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A scanner device that can detect early damage that can lead to the formation of a pressure ulcer has been used successfully in NHS hospitals.

Real-world data from 13 participating hospitals shows half were able to eliminate the occurrence of new pressure ulcers completely.

“We estimate could… release 1,420 hours of nurse productivity annually”

Glenn Smith

Using the SEM Scanner, nurses dramatically cut pressure ulcer occurrence by detecting damage developing under patients’ skin early enough to intervene and reverse the damage.

It marks a breakthrough in prevention of the chronic condition costing the UK £2.1bn annually, according to Bruin Biometrics, which manufactures the early detection technology.

Last year, Nursing Times revealed that nursing teams at UK hospitals and a private provider of NHS community services were trialling a hand-held scanner that the US nurse behind the concept claimed could transform diagnosis and prevention of pressure ulcers.

The SEM Scanner is a wireless non-invasive handheld device that assesses sub-epidermal moisture, or SEM, a biophysical marker that has been found to detect early-stage pressure ulcers beneath the skin surface as much as 10 days earlier than visual inspection by nurses.

Bruin Biometrics enlisted 13 hospitals, including 10 NHS sites, to participate in its Pressure Ulcer Prevention Program (PURP), which involved incorporating the SEM Scanner into existing care pathways for pressure ulcer prevention.

The company claimed the findings from over 1,200 patients scanned were the “most comprehensive real-world evidence” that the early detection technology enabled nurses to prevent pressure ulcers before they break through the skin, contrary to the prevailing view that pressure ulcers cannot be diagnosed and treated until they have caused visible and irreversible damage.

It said over 50% of hospitals achieved zero new bedsores during the evaluation and an additional three hospitals observed reductions of 11%-90%.

Nursing managers also reported improved productivity and the release of nursing time, as well as significant cost savings related to reduced length of patient stay and treatment costs.

“The vast majority of nurses participating… said the device provided valuable clinical information”

Parker Moss

The real-world evaluation data was presented by St Mary’s Hospital and Virgin Care at the Wounds UK annual conference during November in Harrogate and is now being released publicly for the first time.

Glenn Smith, a tissue viability and nutrition senior clinical nurse specialist/patient safety lead at St Mary’s Hospital on the Isle of Wight, said: “We reduced pressure ulcers in the ward concerned to zero during our scanner trial – an achievement that, if we rolled out across our hospital, we estimate could save our hospital nearly £600,000 and release 1,420 hours of nurse productivity annually.”

Parker Moss, chief technology and transformation officer at Virgin Care, which experienced a 95% drop in the pressure ulcer rate during an evaluation of the device at Farnham Community Hospital in Surrey, added: “The vast majority of nurses participating in our Scanner study said the device provided valuable clinical information.”

“These data challenge existing practice that looks for visual changes to skin to initiate bedsore intervention,” said Bruin Biometrics chief executive Martin Burns. “The reductions consistently achieved across a broad set of patients and care settings are evidence that the promise of early detection will play out in wound care.”

As previously reported by Nursing Times, the SEM Scanner was conceived by Barbara Bates-Jensen, a wound care nursing expert and professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

It was adapted from seismology technology used on NASA’s Mars landing craft to interrogate beneath the planet’s surface.

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