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Sad sleepless patient chatting with her phone

Treating patients with COVID-19 is severely taxing the US health-care system and already there are few hospital beds available to patients.

A mobile app developed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the medical director of the Firefighters Burn Center in Memphis, Tennessee, will be used to meet recovery needs of newly discharged patients from the burn center and burn patients being treated as outpatients.

By using this mobile app, patients can receive the recovery guidance they require without the need of in-person consultation at overburdened medical facilities.

The Bridge Mobile App for Burn Patients provides patients with instruction, encouragement, and essential biopsychosocial rehabilitation after discharge.

Although this app is still being tested, the Firefighters Burn Center has requested and been granted permission to immediately begin using the app to support patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic and protect them from exposure.

Collaborators on the project include Thereasa Abrams, assistant professor in the College of Social Work; Xueping Li, professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in the Tickle College of Engineering; Tami Wyatt, associate dean for research in the College of Nursing; Cary Staples, professor in the School of Design in the College of Architecture and Design; Dawn Coe, associate professor in kinesiology, recreation, and sport studies in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences; and Bill Hickerson, medical director at the Firefighters Burn Center.

Abrams said, “The skin protects us from the environment, among many other essential functions. The more patients are outside their own homes, the increased likelihood they will be exposed to pathogens and damage to the recovering tissue.”

The app, developed in 2017, is a HIPPA-compliant tool designed to provide essential wound care and other recovery information to discharged burn patients. Automatic messages are sent one to three times a day to a patient to remind and encourage them to continue with self-care. The app tracks patient ratings for itch, anxiety, mood, and pain, graphing progress which physicians, nurses, and patients themselves can monitor.

“The process that was followed for developing, designing, and implementing this app could be used for other health applications to reach at-risk populations,” Abrams said. “I would love for this technology to become part of standard of care for discharging burn patients, as well as those being treated as outpatients—that every patient has the opportunity to obtain the necessary information required for proper self-care and treatment at their fingertips.”

According to the American Burn Association, about 486,000 burn injuries require medical treatment each year and an estimated 40,000 of those burn injuries require hospitalization.

CONTACT:

Diane Carr (865-974-7603, dcarr9@utk.edu)

Karen Dunlap (865-974-8674, kdunlap6@utk.edu)