Living with Diabetes Doesn’t Mean Living in Fear of Foot Ulcers and Amputations

Living with diabetes is a daily challenge.  You take medications to manage your blood sugar, watch your weight and stress level, and make decisions on what you eat, when you eat, and how much…it is a daily cycle of choices that can help improve your quality of life, or take away from it.  Despite making all the right decisions and following your doctor’s prescribed regimen, diabetes becomes part of every minute of every day.  Of all the health issues that diabetics face, suffering a diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) or worse, a lower extremity amputation (LEA), doesn’t have to be one of them.

Just how serious are diabetic foot ulcers?  For the 30M+ people who live with diabetes in the US, more than 70% will develop diabetic foot neuropathy which results in the loss of sensation in the feet and increases the risk of foot ulcers and amputations.  It is estimated that up to 50% of diabetics who suffer one-foot ulcer die within two years and up to 80% within five years.  DFUs and LEAs occur more than 1.1M times each year and cost the healthcare system more than $16 billion, annually.  By comparison, every 30-seconds, a leg is lost to an amputation due to diabetes – that’s more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, combined.   So, what is being done to address the economic burden of diabetes as it continues to grow?  Meet, Roslyn McClendon.

Roslyn McClendon, Type II Diabetic.  “Five years ago, I went to visit my doctor for a routine visit.  I hadn’t felt bad nor had any health issues, I just wanted to get a check-up.  During my appointment, my doctor gave me the news – you have diabetes.  When I heard it, I thought it was just something most people have today and with a few dietary changes, it would go away.  What I didn’t know is the effect it would have on my feet. A few months went by after my appointment, I thought everything was fine but started to notice my feet were tingling and I didn’t have the same sensation I used to.  Shortly after that, I developed an abscess on the bottom of my foot.  I thought it was just a scratch so I cleaned and bandaged it at home for a week, but it wasn’t getting better.  Because I waited and didn’t realize how serious it could be, I waited before I went to my doctor.  That was the beginning of what took more than a year of my life to heal, not to mention numerous follow-up appointments, loss of work time, and being scared.  My doctor told me that if it didn’t heal or became more infected, surgery and amputation could result,” said McClendon.

“As I was recovering, I asked my doctor how I can keep from every having this happen again and he recommended a home health device that measures daily foot temperatures and is remote monitored by a company.  It is so easy to use and takes less than a minute each day.  By checking the change in my foot temperature, if a 4-degree rise in any one spot is identified, my doctor and I receive an alert message and can immediately identify any ‘hotspot’ that may signal a developing ulcer.  Prevention is everything and going to my doctor earlier is so important.   Now, it’s just part of what I do every day – caring for my feet and my health,” said McClendon.

Thanks to technology, remote patient care puts the power of prevention in the hands of the patient in the comfort of their own home.  In addition to temperature monitoring, remote patient care also include monitoring patient compliance.  Within the US, only 70% of all patients adhere/comply with their physician prescribed care.  When voice messaging and email communications are included with ongoing care (e.g. in between doctor appointments), compliance increases up to 89% (source:  Compliance monitoring services often include; 1) call and email reminders if a patient hasn’t measured their foot temperatures within a 3-5-day timeframe, 2) educational resources (e.g. how-to-videos, tips and tools to help manage diabetes), and 3) consultative services with medical organizations to enhance their patient-incentive programs.

In the next 60-seconds, 3 people will be newly diagnosed with diabetes, 2 diabetics will have a foot amputation, and 1.5 people will die from diabetes.  Despite all the advances in medicine today, preventing diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) and lower extremity amputations (LEAs) has largely gone unchecked, let alone publicized.  However, in 2018, some of the largest and leading healthcare organizations in the world, Kaiser Permanente, International Diabetes Federation, American Diabetes Association, and The Diabetes Council are calling for change.

01/2018 International Diabetes Foundation – “Diabetic foot complications, ulcers and amputations are the most common occurring problems throughout the globe, resulting in devastating economic crises for the patients, families and society…The International Diabetes Foundation has now become proactive and declared in its mandate that now is the time to increase awareness about the foot complications associated with diabetes in scenarios of social, personal, clinical and economic costs.”

01/2018 Kaiser Permanente (New Care Options for Diabetic Neuropathy and Foot Wounds) – “Considering that 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes eventually develop some form of neuropathy, it’s important to seek medical help in the early stages of the condition.  MAPMG Innovation Engine and Mid-Atlantic Permanente Research Institute (MAPRI) is investigating wireless, remote temperature monitoring technology to reduce foot ulcer recurrence.”

06/2017 The New England Journal of Medicine (Diabetic Foot Ulcers and Their Recurrence) – “Adherence to treatment has been confirmed to play an important role into clinical outcomes…seven intervention studies, most of which were randomized, controlled trials, investigated the effect of adherence to recommendations for preventing ulcer recurrence, both plantar and non-plantar, and all these trials showed that patients who follow the recommendations (obtaining professional care, monitoring their foot temperatures and using therapeutic footwear) have significantly better outcomes than those who do not follow the recommendations.”

“Living with diabetes changed my life, having a foot ulcer could have ended it, sooner.  If it weren’t for my doctor providing me with a simple and effective way of proactively monitoring my feet, I probably wouldn’t be here,” says McClendon.

This article was written by Kris Knopf, EVP Sales and Marketing, Partner with MR3 Health.

You can see the original article on Kris Knopf’s LinkedIn page at:

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