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Doctors Get New Weapon Against Surgical Infections (It's An App)

It’s common for patients to call or email Dr. Heather Evans with questions about their surgical wounds. Sometimes they even email photos.

But there’s no way to know for sure if something’s wrong without seeing the patient and the wound in person.

“And that might mean for someone in Wenatchee that they need to drive several hours to come see me, or at least go to the local emergency room there,” said Evans, a surgeon at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

Evans thought there had to be a better way. She developed an app for the University of Washington called mPOWEr to help track infections before they get worse.

Up to 3 percent of surgery patients wind up with infections. Most of the time complications happen after they leave the hospital.

Later this month, patients at the UW Medical Center's Reconstructive Clinic will get the app before surgery so when they leave the hospital they can keep a diary of their wound and symptoms. The app asks detailed questions about what the wound looks like, whether it’s draining and how much. It also allows patients to send pictures of the wound to the doctor.

Evans said post-surgery infections can lead to hospital readmissions or unnecessary trips to the emergency room. She hopes the app will also let doctors get a better grasp of why complications occur.

“As we understand where the problems are, maybe we can do targeted interventions to improve our rate of surgery site infections,” Evans said.

The app is one of many UW projects that received a $30 million federal grant from Health and Human Services to improve patient outcomes and reduce hospital readmissions.

Year started with KUOW: 1994