New Technology Identifies Potential Foot Ulcers

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA_ announce in November wide implementation of smart, connected foot mats that are designed for early detection of diabetic foot ulcers. In 2018 the VA reportedly treated more than 75,000 cases of diabetic foot ulcers across the country.

Currently in use at 15 VA medical centers, the foot mats use thermographic monitoring via a special camera that measures skin temperature in order to identify the earliest stages of ulcers. The radiation-free mat uses special thermal imaging to measure the temperature of a patient’s feet. Patients simply stand on the mat for less than a minute each day. This allows clinicians to develop plans for preventing added deterioration of a patient’s health, according to the VA, and could be instrumental in preventing limb loss among some veterans.

“Since 2004, research suggests that temperature-monitoring may be an effective way to predict, thus prevent, diabetic foot ulceration,” said VA’s National Program Director for Podiatry Dr. Jeffrey Robbins. “If not detected early, diabetic ulcers can lead to serious complications including complex infections, amputations and sometimes death.”

VA data shows the cost to treat each ulcer is $47,000. Diabetic care costs VA an estimated $3.5 billion annually. The cost of the mat is approximately $3,500. “If we can reduce even 25% of foot ulcers treated in fiscal year 2019, that’s a protentional cost avoidance of $875 million annually,” adds Robbins.

The use of the foot mat builds on a 2017 VA-led study at the Phoenix VA and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Systems. Researchers found the in-home foot temperature monitoring device was able to detect 97 percent of diabetic foot ulcers as early as five weeks before the onset of symptoms, with 86 percent of participants using the mat an average of three days per week. With more medical centers offering the use of the mat, VA has continued to observe similar outcomes.

“VA is uniquely positioned in its ability to test and quickly scale new solutions throughout its healthcare system, which can drastically change veterans lives,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. VA announced that the mat will be available to veterans through their local Prevention of Amputations for Veterans Everywhere clinic providers. In addition, VA’s Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem is implementing a pilot program of the mats at VA facilities in the Southeast.

Sources: O&P Almanac, US Department of Veterans Affairs