Aaron Lesher, M.D., develops new app that takes the sting out of burn care

Surgery

Parents whose kids have suffered burns are about to get some high-tech help from the MUSC Children’s Health Burn Center. Starting in November, moms and dads can use an app to connect with a doctor or nurse without leaving home to make sure they’re caring for their child’s burn wound the right way.

Pediatric burn surgeon Aaron Lesher, M.D., is developing the app with the help of a $200,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. “It completely changes the paradigm of how we treat outpatient burns,” he said.

Usually, after a child is treated in the hospital for a burn, he or she has to see a doctor again and again to make sure the bandage is being changed properly and the wound is healing. So parents may have to take time off from work and take the child to a doctor’s office.

But thanks to the first-of-its-kind app, some of those road trips will screech to a stop as parents learn how to use the app to communicate with their kids’ doctors. The burn care app will work like FaceTime or Skype, Lesher said. “With smart phone technology, we can be at their home when they’re changing the dressing and help them.”

And that, he said, should have a big impact on kids’ healing. “About 2,000 medically important burns in children are treated in the state every year. Telemedicine is uniquely suited for taking care of them.” Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, connects patients with doctors through web cameras and computers.

Here’s how the burn app will work. The parents schedule a time to talk with the doctor, then use the app at the time of their appointment to show the doctor how the child’s wound is doing. They get advice and make sure the wound is healing well. The app also lets families text photos to the doctor or nurse, send messages, reschedule appointments and watch videos created by the MUSC Children's Health Burn Centerteam. “It’s good to have that peace of mind with a professional watching over your shoulder,” Lesher said.

Developing the app is just one of three components of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield grant. The grant also pays for:

  • Making the app work through the MUSC Health Center for Telehealth, which specializes in using technology to bring medical care to patients
  • Using telehealth to care for more children in hospitals that need the expertise of the MUSC Children’s Health burn team
  • Using the South Carolina Area Education Consortium, or AHEC, to implement a burn prevention program in schools, featuring coloring books and videos

Lesher loves the fact that through this grant, his team can expand its efforts to help children and parents across the state safely treat burn wounds. The team already works with smaller hospitals that have less experience with treating burns, offering advice via video or phone with patients and doctors. The burn app will expand that effort.

Lesher gave this example. “So if a child is burned in Conway, they go to the emergency room there. We get contacted, and the parents can download the app in the emergency room. We can then provide expert burn care to the patient while minimizing the trips that they might otherwise need to get this care at MUSC,” Lesher said.

Childhood burns can come from a lot of sources, including:

  • Hot bath water
  •  Coffee
  • Hot food
  • sCooking oil
  • Open flames
  • Hot objects such as stoves and curling irons
  • Chemicals such as drain cleaner and bleach
  • Electrical outlets and cords

Most burns treated at MUSC Children’s Hospital aren’t bad enough for the child to spend the night in the hospital. They can be treated, and everybody can head home, where a parent can care for the injury. 

“With good medical treatment and wound care, the burn can nearly disappear,” Lesher said. “Even though you have this very traumatic experience, with some good nurturing wound care, they really do quite well.”

For more information about the burn app and videos, contact Ryan Howard at 843-792-6909.