AI tech to assist clinicians in wound assessment and care
Coviu, a telehealth spin-out from CSIRO, is developing a digital toolkit for telehealth wound care alongside CSIRO, The University of Sydney, Australian Unity, Western NSW Primary Health Network and The University of Technology Sydney.
The cost of chronic wounds is equivalent to more than $3.5 billion, approximately 2% of national healthcare expenditure, with more than 400,000 Australians estimated to suffer at any time.
The new suite of digital tools will provide a one-stop shop for clinicians caring for wounds. Mobile imaging, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), will allow practitioners to remotely analyse and monitor wounds over time. From a video feed, clinicians will assess vital sign metrics, such as a patient’s heart and respiratory rate.
With remote access to a greater breadth of wound data at the click of a button the information will help practitioners make decisions about how to manage wounds, including raising red flags when there are significant changes which might indicate infection, the body’s reaction to the wound or a reaction to medication.
The challenge is widespread in residential aged-care facilities as older people are more susceptible to chronic wounds due to their comorbidities and age-associated factors such as frail skin. There is often a lack of expert and specialist wound support across the aged-care sector, but this is particularly heightened in rural and remote Australia where there are health workforce shortages and health access challenges.
Dr Annie Banbury, Clinical Research Lead at Coviu, said the wound care digital toolkit will support clinicians, such as GPs, to make data-informed clinical decisions for wound care during a telehealth video call. The initiative recently received $6.5m funding from the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund.
Associate Professor Georgina Luscombe from The University of Sydney School of Rural Health said, “This funding will give nurses, doctors and allied health professionals the digital tools to better assess and treat wounds. This is particularly needed in rural and remote areas where there is a lack of specialist wound care services. Since rural populations tend to be older and face healthcare access challenges, telehealth has great advantages in the support of rural residents of aged-care facilities. Delivering care virtually means reducing the need for frail elderly to be transported to health care, and for clinicians to enter facilities — an advantage that the COVID-19 pandemic helped us appreciate.
“The technology is being co-designed with consumers and clinicians, and testing will involve residential aged-care facilities in Victoria and NSW. Part of this testing involves assessing how the technology can best be rolled out and integrated into routine health care. This project has the potential to support our health workforce and benefit communities right across Australia.”
Dr Salvado, Head of Imaging and Computer Vision at CSIRO, said: “User-centred design and rigorous clinical validation are at the heart of this project. Our multidisciplinary team will bring new AI computer vision technologies into a clinical setting and create products that will address often overlooked and preventable health issues.
Development for the Digital Wound Care toolkit will begin in 2022 and be available through the Coviu platform in 2026.
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