Australian Research Transforming Wound Outcomes
Wound management poses a significant challenge to the healthcare system. In Australia alone it is estimated that more than 433,000 people suffer from chronic wounds such as leg ulcers, pressure injuries or non-healing surgical wounds at any one time and, yet, the true incidence is not really known as many people never seek help for their wound problems.
In Australia it is conservatively estimated that the problem of wounds costs the healthcare system more than $2.85 billion a year which equates to almost 2% of the Australian national healthcare budget. In addition, formal education and training for healthcare professionals is fragmented due to wound care not being recognised as a discrete healthcare field.
To address the growing challenge of wound care, the Wound Management Innovation CRC (WMI CRC) was formed in 2010 and brings together the best of industry, academia and end-user organisations. The Australian Government’s CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations between key stakeholders to develop new technologies, products and services to ultimately transform the lives of Australians and the economy.
As the WMI CRC enters its translation phase, the key focus of operations for the remaining term is concentrated toward research, development, clinical translation and education activities that ultimately lead to the transformation of wound outcomes on a global scale.
Key areas of activity:
The WMI CRC Research Portfolio is divided into three multi-disciplinary research programs that focus on the identification and development of new diagnostics, prognostics, therapeutics, wound management products, through to delivery of best practice wound care, translating evidence-based care into practice. The WMI CRC has a twice yearly research project intake that addresses specific wound aetiologies, as defined by the CRC’s independently recommended research priority areas.
To date the WMI CRC has delivered some incredible outcomes that have already had a positive effect on wound healing in Australia. Key outputs to date include the discovery that using a twice-daily moisturising regime halves the number of skin tears, the most common wound in older Australians. The moisturiser study results have already led to the inclusion of twice daily moisturising as standard protocol in 14 aged care facilities and the results have been presented at conferences nationally and internationally and publications are in preparation.
Another significant outcome includes an economic modelling study that has shown the conservative cost of chronic wounds to the Australian health system is an estimated $2.85 billion annually. This outcome has resulted in the need to include health economics as a core part of the CRC’s activities. The CRC now has an independent health economist who will quantify specific research projects as well as modelling the economic benefits of optimal wound care across Australia. These recommendations will then be used to push for policy reform and adequate reimbursement for wound care.
The WMI CRC has created an environment for development of our research into commercially valuable products. Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University joined the WMI CRC in 2014 and their involvement in the CRC is based around licensing and developing technology to create next generation devices including pressure sensing materials for socks, shoes and insoles. There is a short, well-defined path to market for these technologies, which have the capacity to transform the lives of patients living with diabetic foot ulcers and venous leg ulcers and to deliver significant commercial return to the Australian community. The prospect of delivering these commercial products has also been increased by more active engagement with Industry.
A key area of activity for the WMI CRC is the dissemination of evidence-based best practice clinical resources to healthcare providers. The implementation of evidence-based best practice has been initiated in GP clinics and Residential Aged Care with the establishment of Cooperative Wound Clinic pilot project. Under this project wound consultants have provided hands on training and education resulting in improved knowledge and confidence in the treatment of wounds and improved patient outcomes. The CRC is expanding this concept towards self-sustainable business models that provide services beyond the CRC’s term, including providing telehealth and education services into aged care through a Mobile Wound Service Project and exploring options to create a sustainable wound clinic network model.
Despite the fact that evidence-based wound care often costs less to the healthcare system than standard community care, healthcare practitioners lack confidence and knowledge in the correct management of wounds due to a lack of education and training. The CRC has an Education Project that advises on skill and knowledge gaps and opportunities to continue in assisting the expansion of other CRC clinical translation activities. As at June 2014 the CRC has one of the most successful student programs, including a high volume of Higher Degree Research students, graduates, chapters, papers and presentations that have been acknowledged internationally.
Core to the CRC Program is the unique collaboration between Australian academia, industry and end-user organisations to drive research to output. The WMI CRC has successfully brought together a growing total of 21 participants comprising the nation’s leading laboratory based scientists, clinical researchers, wound practitioners, wound care organisations and corporate industry organisations.
The WMI CRC recently signed a collaboration agreement with the Cell Therapy Manufacturing CRC (CTM CRC). CTM CRC, through intervention with smart materials, is committed to the cost-effective manufacture and rapid translation of cell therapies for a range of clinical conditions. WMI CRC and CTM CRC will work together to access wound clinics and skilled practitioners to deliver these novel cell therapy based treatments, once prototypes are at a more mature stage.
The WMI CRC has over 20 international expert collaborators spanning 11 countries, and currently has two international collaborations in place with Wales and Canada. These Commonwealth collaborations will initially focus on the following important initiatives: the creation of “Diabetic Foot Australia” and wound social communities based on the Canadian model; an international post-graduate student exchange program; and launching an Australian Wound Registry based on the Welsh Wound Registry.
The introduction of clinical registries to monitor healthcare performance and track clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatments in real-world clinical practice is one strategy proven to have demonstrable impact on improving service delivery. Clinical registries improve outcomes by engaging clinicians using credible data and fostering competition and they also help to encourage engagement among patients, families and/or caregivers and the community. The pilot phase of the wound registry project is approaching completion. This project assessed a hybrid pen-and-paper digital system to capture wound data as well as developing relationships and technical capability to integrate existing data into the Australian Wound Registry. The final report outlining the technical, legal and governance requirements is nearing completion with the intention to move to a roll-out phase in coming months to initiate upload of data into the registry.
The Future of Wound Care
WMI CRC will continue to explore additional industry partners and commercialisation opportunities to build on an already successful research and development portfolio. The CRC is unifying education and training resources to roll out best practice wound management education and training along with the progression of a number of promising and exciting spin out ventures from the CRC’s assets and outcomes. The WMI CRC is in a strong position to deliver impact and value to ultimately transform wound outcomes locally and globally within its remaining term.
Branding & Communication Coordinator
Wound Management Innovation Cooperative Research Centre
P +07 3088 6666
Shelley Morris has been with the Wound Management Innovation Cooperative Research Centre (WMI CRC) National Office since 2012 and currently manages the corporate branding and communications. Shelley’s background and qualifications are in the areas of business administration, human resources, marketing, graphic design and brand management
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