By Lynne Vantassel
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital opened its Center for Wound Healing a year ago. It was the first wound care center of its kind in Vermont and one of a few in the tri-state region to offer Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). Over the past twelve months, we have learned a lot about the needs of patients in our community. In turn, they have learned that they don’t have to live their lives coping with chronic, non-healing wounds.
To date, the Center has provided treatment to more than 200 individuals. These wounds are caused by a variety of conditions; including diabetes, venous disease, pressure sores, radiation, as well as post-surgical wounds. About half of all patients come from Brattleboro or surrounding towns. The other half are coming from a much broader radius, traveling from as far away as Bennington, Ludlow, Chester and even Peterborough and Claremont, New Hampshire. Many (about 10%) of these patients had never visited BMH before.
Following a structured clinical approach is a key factor contributing to our 96 percent success rate for healing wounds. The Center uses a case management approach to patient care. That means we try to have the same doctor and nurse team attend to the individual every time he or she comes for treatment. Over the course of treatment, this medical team gains a deep understanding of a patient’s condition and factors in their lives that may have contributed to their wound. This approach also helps us monitor progress, as the same staff members are observing and documenting what the wound looks like at each visit.
Consistency is also important; not only for proper healing but also for ensuring patients maintain their treatment schedule. A chronic wound on the foot or leg might impair many individuals’ ability to drive. They rely on friends, family members, public transportation or medical ride services to get to their appointments. We’ve learned that establishing a time slot for each person, where they come at the same time on the same day of the week, helps ensure they can make their appointments without interruption.
It’s important to note that we don’t count a wound healing intervention as successful unless a patient completes all their treatments. Even if someone were to quit with just one appointment left, we count that as the patient is discharged without being completely healed. . Most of the patients who fall into that four percent unsuccessful category did so because they chose to discontinue treatment or because the winter weather made it too difficult to get to the hospital. We also participate in a patient satisfaction survey program and over 97 percent of our patients have said they would refer us to a friend or family member in need of wound care.
As we move into year two at the BMH Center for Wound Healing, we plan to increase the number of daily clinics to accommodate more patients. We’ve been running five in the morning and two in the afternoon. In April, we added an eighth clinic. My goal is to increase the number to 10 by year’s end. With so many patients dependent on others for transportation, this is the best way we can accommodate the needs of our community.
It is always best to have a patient referred by their primary care provider or specialist, but we have had patients contact us first. We are happy to provide an initial consultation without a referral. Should our physicians determine you would benefit from wound care treatment following that appointment, we can then contact your providers and get the process started. Many people in this community have lived for months and years with non-healing wounds. That doesn’t need to be the reality any longer.
Lynne Vantassel is the Program Director for the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Center for Wound Healing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-275-3674.