"It's our specialty and what brings us joy," says board-certified wound-care specialist Scott Johnson, MD, who in July assumed the role of medical director for the outpatient treatment center connected by walkway to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. "There is nothing more rewarding than to use your expertise and training to help patients find hope and healing."
Dr. Johnson, who also is fellowship-trained in critical care, has cared for patients at the clinic for four years; he now leads the team, which includes infectious disease specialists, internal medicine physicians, a podiatrist, a nurse practitioner, a certified wound and ostomy nurse, registered nurses and wound technicians — all with specialized training in treating chronic wounds. Working collaboratively, they create for each patient a personalized treatment plan designed to stimulate wound healing, restore health and improve quality of life.
"We are staffed and equipped to help patients heal as efficiently and quickly as possible," says Dr. Johnson. "Patients are so relieved when wounds that weren't responding to treatment finally heal."
Comprehensive, integrated care
Ascension Via Christi Wound and Hyperbaric Therapy offers state-of-the-art treatment options, including hyperbaric oxygen therapy, negative pressure therapies, bioengineered tissues, and off-loading foot and leg casts. Additionally, it uses numerous wound care products that can be personalized according to patients' specific needs.
"Office-based practices simply can't offer all the options we have here," says Dr. Johnson. For example, bedside imaging technology provides real-time information about the type and extent of an infection without having to wait for a culture. Another bedside imaging device is used to measure oxygen in the skin, providing immediate feedback without having to wait for a sonogram study.
There are two hyperbaric therapy chambers for treating patients with complex wounds that won’t heal or with needs beyond typical wound-care parameters. Patients who meet the criteria for hyperbaric therapy — typically patients with diabetic foot wounds, post-radiation necrosis and refractory osteomyelitis — benefit from having the care they need delivered by one team in one easily accessible location.
"The availability of such a comprehensive 'tool box' allows us to provide wound care in a way that is timely, effective and simpler for the patient and the care team," says Dr. Johnson, noting that timely care is particularly critical for the three out of 10 patients treated for diabetic foot and leg ulcers.
"Diabetic ulcers should be treated with immediacy, as delays in care can lead to amputations that could have been avoided with prompt treatment," he says.
Podiatrist Miki Matsuda, DPM, treats patients with diabetic leg and foot ulcers, while infectious disease specialists Maggie Hagan, MD, Keck Hartman, MD, and Maha Assi, MD; help assess and treat infections that can lead to hospitalization or amputation. Dr. Matsuda says the center’s abundant resources, knowledgeable nursing staff and access to hyperbaric therapy help ensure positive outcomes for her patients.
Judith Shilling, an advanced practice registered nurse and other nurses with specialized training in wound, ostomy and continence care, provide preoperative assessments, education and markings. The nursing team helps patients monitor blood sugar levels, manage diet and medications, and track the progress of their wounds throughout treatment. They also help connect patients with resources for healing and recovery, if needed, including wound-dressing supplies, home healthcare visits, or community services and support.
Ascension Via Christi Wound and Hyperbaric Therapy is part of the decade-old SerenaGroup network, a global healthcare company specializing in wound and hyperbaric therapy. This allows team members to collaborate with academic medical centers, hospitals and thousands of professionals to advance wound healing by creating, sharing and activating wound prevention and care expertise and serve as a valuable training ground for residents and other physicians.
"Our team is committed to continuous improvement," says Dr. Johnson. "We may approach care from different vantage points, but we are all dedicated to helping patients heal as quickly and as completely as possible."
A collaborative approach
The team maintains ongoing communication with patients' primary care providers and enlists the expertise of many specialists to help heal wounds and minimize other healthcare risks, including general, orthopedic, vascular surgeons; neurosurgeons; cardiologists; oncologists; endocrinologists; rheumatologists; vein specialists; dermatologists; and oral maxillofacial surgeons and dentists.
"Having other specialized physicians nearby is beneficial in managing ulcers as well as in follow-up care," says Dr. Matsuda, noting the benefit of being a walkway away from vascular assessment, imaging studies, advanced wound care, surgical intervention and other acute-care capabilities at the main hospital.
To ensure patients receive the most appropriate care, their progress is tracked through weekly visits and their care plans are regularly reviewed by a panel of consulting clinicians.
"Wound care is a subspecialty with its own learning curve, which is what makes our work so gratifying," says Dr. Johnson. "It pushes all of us to be better today than we were the day before."
In the past year, the team has seen approximately 6,500 patient encounters, a nearly 10 percent increase over the prior year.
"As the population ages and more people are diagnosed with diabetes and other chronic illnesses, our wound center will continue to play a crucial role in wound-care healing and management," says Dr. Johnson. "It's a much-needed service that we are pleased to offer."
Ascension Via Christi Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Therapy treats:
- Diabetic, neuropathic and pressure ulcers
- Infections ulcers
- Venous insufficiency ulcers
- Soft tissue injuries and bone necrosis
- Surgical wound ulcers
- Vasculitis ulcers
- Chronic wounds
- Arterial insufficiency ulcers
- Radiation injuries
- Uncommon ulcers such as malignancy and pyoderma gangrenosum
- Pressure ulcers
- Lymphedema ulcers
Additionally, the team offers ostomy care and education.