New research examining patients with healed diabetic foot ulcers revealed that daily foot temperature monitoring can result in lower rates of hospitalization and foot ulcer recurrence in high-risk patients, according to a study in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.
The study used Podimetrics SmartMats to take the temperature of participants’ feet and to scan for signs of inflammation. The company not only provided the mats but gave funding to the study, and several of the researchers are employees and shareholders of Podimetrics.
The SmartMat collects foot-temperature scans and transmits the results to the company’s care team. If necessary, the system alerts clinicians so that preventive action can be taken.
While participants were engaged in the study and measuring their foot temperature, daily hospitalizations declined by 52%, emergency room visits decreased by 40% and foot ulcer recurrence rates dropped by 91%.
The researchers also found that lower-extremity amputations decreased by 71% and outpatient visits lowered by more than 25%.
Researchers examined patients for a two-year period prior to intervention – one year during the program and another after it ended. They noted high rates of healthcare utilization before enrollment, followed by lower rates during the program, and then higher rates of utilization and similar rates of recurrence in the period following the end of the program.
“Diabetic amputations are some of the most devastating and costliest complications afflicting people with diabetes. They have plagued some of our most vulnerable members and continue to cost the U.S. healthcare system billions of dollars,” said Timothy Swartz, DPM, an author of the study and chief of Podiatry with the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, in a statement provided by Podimetrics. “It’s a game changer to dramatically reduce these complications and do so in a way that lets our patients go about their lives and, more recently, remain home and safe from COVID-19.”
HOW IT WAS DONE
A total of 77 participants were included in the analysis of this study. The participants had an average age of about 60 years, were majority (77%) male. Most of them (64%) identified as Black. To be eligible, participants had to have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and a history of diabetic foot ulcers or an amputation that had healed within the 24 months before enrollment.
The research was conducted by the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, an integrated medical group in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The program involved a once-daily in-home foot scan using the Podimetrics mat, care management to support participants in engagement with the program, and periodic podiatric exams prompted by abnormal foot temperature readings.
Participants were also monitored for non-adherence. If a participant didn’t use their device for four consecutive days, a nurse would call to remind the patient to continue completing daily foot self-exams.
THE LARGER TREND
Foot complications are a common problem among people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
People with diabetes make up about half of all hospital admissions for amputations, a report from the ADA says. It also notes that most amputations are preceded by foot ulcers, so preventative measures are essential.
Still, however, diabetic amputations appear to be rising in the U.S., with about 230 people with diabetes getting an amputation every day, according to the American Journal of Managed Care.
Companies like Podimetrics, which recently reported a 300% growth in the first half of 2020 and raised $24.6 million, are using technology to help prevent the need for diabetic amputations.
Others include Siren, a smart textile company that makes temperature-monitoring socks, which recently landed an additional $9 million to its Series B funding round.