VA adopts tech nationwide to prevent diabetic foot ulcers

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing a medical device across the country to identify early onset of diabetic foot ulcers, a costly and potentially deadly condition that can lead to limb loss.

One out of every four veterans has diabetes, and 80 percent of non-traumatic amputations are from diabetic foot ulcers. Last year, the VA treated more than 75,000 cases of diabetic foot ulcers nationwide.

To better detect diabetic foot ulcers and prevent the deterioration of patients with diabetes, the agency is making wireless in-home monitoring technology available through its Prevention of Amputations for Veterans Everywhere clinic providers.

The Podimetrics SmartMat, currently in use at 15 VA medical centers, leverages thermal imaging to collect foot temperature scans as well as online tools for clinical decision support. SmartMat is FDA-cleared and has the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Approval, according to Podimetrics, a care management vendor based in Somerville, Mass.

Patients place their feet on the mat for 20 seconds a day and the data are automatically sent to Podimetrics and the care team for analysis and review. Home monitoring of foot temperatures, as well as appropriate care when the temperature exceeds a specified threshold, can effectively reduce the incidence of ulcers.

A 2017 VA-led study showed that the device was able to detect 97 percent of diabetic foot ulcers as early as five weeks before the onset of symptoms. In VA facilities in the southeast, which have some of the highest rates of diabetic foot ulcers, the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem is currently implementing a SmartMat pilot program to further evaluate best practices, optimize care models and improve the effectiveness of the technology.

“VA’s early adoption of cutting edge, innovative solutions to combat a disease that impacts so many veterans is another example of how VA is aiming to be a leader in healthcare innovation,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a written statement. “VA is uniquely positioned in its ability to test and quickly scale new solutions throughout its healthcare system, which can drastically change veteran lives."

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