Spinal Health: Can We Provide The Best Care By Simply Keeping Up With Science?
Research and Innovations A spinal cord injury (SCI) disturbs the way people’s body’s work and learning to manage these problems is often difficult.
Making sure that the skin is protected is very important because SCI lessens or removes the ability to feel problems with the skin. If the skin breaks down, people with SCI are at high risk of getting skin ulcers or pressure sores. Having a pressure sore reduces a person’s quality of life and is costly to the health care system. Having to stay in bed, needing surgery or weeks, months or years of healthcare is common if a person gets a pressure sore.
But skin break down is very preventable and manageable with lots of science and experts to explain how. So why are pressure sores still a problem even though many healthcare providers know the science and listen to the experts? The reason is that healthcare needs to be coordinated between teams of nurses, therapists, doctors, patients and other caregivers. If even one of the healthcare team is not on the same page as the others, the end result will not be as expected and may even be damaging to the patient.
"Having a pressure sore reduces a person’s quality of life and is costly to the health care system."
Six rehabilitation centres in London, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Calgary and Edmonton make up the The Spinal Cord Injury Knowledge Mobilization Network (SCI KMN). Supported by the Rick Hansen Institute, Alberta Paraplegic Foundation and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, all six sites are working together to work out the details of giving the best available care according to the science.
Risk assessment for skin break down is the current topic area for SCI KMN and improving the ability to find skin problems and begin early treatment is the goal for this pan-Canadian network. Even though the science can be summed up in a single sentence for recommended care, a large part of providing excellent care is to know the details behind the science. For example, the science says to use a proven tool to assess the risk.
However, there are many tools to choose from and staff need to learn who should, and how and when, to use the tools. Training, retraining and other staff supports must also be in place for the tools to be effective. SCI KMN will ensure that all lessons learned are in materials that can be shared over time and with other sites and caregiver organizations to adapt and customize.
A key to the work of the SCI KMN is to measure the results of our work in order to continuously improve the delivery of the best available care.