Study Finds Telehealth Highly Effective In Treating Diabetic Foot Ulcers

A recent study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care by Kaiser Permanente has revealed that a telehealth platform, which enables health care providers to oversee diabetic foot ulcers of patients from a distance, has helped to eradicate major amputations and halve hospital admissions. This study emphasizes the importance of these connected care systems for the successful management of care outside of the hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office, especially at a time such as this, when in-person visits have been restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, and patients with chronic illnesses are unwilling to consult their doctor for check-ups or any other services.

Diabetic foot ulcers are a common, yet dangerous condition for those managing diabetes. If left untreated or inadequately monitored, these ulcers can have serious consequences, including infection, amputation and even death. A startling statistic reveals that in the US, lower-limb amputations due to diabetes make up a third of all diabetes-related health costs annually, with each amputation costing up to $100,000. Sadly, it is estimated that at least half of those who have had a diabetic amputation will pass away within the next five years.

Approximately 80 individuals living with diabetes and who had recently healed from foot ulcers participated in a 12-month ulcer recurrence prevention program through Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group in Rockville, MD. Podimetrics supplied a telemedicine mat, which enabled the patients to measure and monitor their foot temperature daily in the comfort of their own home and to share this data with their care providers. The research study evaluated foot-related outcomes and resource use for two years prior to the program and one year after its conclusion. It revealed that no major amputations occurred among the participants, and all-cause hospital admissions decreased by 52%. Furthermore, emergency department visits and outpatient treatment declined by 40% and 25%, respectively. Participants were also more proactive in their health, communicating with care providers using phone or text messages. This study demonstrates the efficacy of remote patient monitoring programs, which allow providers to proactively monitor and adjust care for patients at home instead of solely relying on their office visits or calls when they are unwell.