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VA’s Remote Temperature Monitoring Prevents Diabetic Limb Loss

Dec 20, 2023 |

Reprinted with permission from the Department of Veterans Affairs. By Treva Lutes, Communications Director, VA Office of Connected Care.

VA’s remote temperature monitoring program encourages Veterans to use the Podimetrics SmartMat in their podiatry care. The mat can detect diabetic foot ulcers or other foot disorders as early as five weeks before they appear.

Diabetes affects about one in four Veterans who receive VA care. For these Veterans, late-detected diabetic foot ulcers could lead to limb amputation. But they can avoid this by taking one simple step… onto an electronic mat each morning.

“It’s much easier to treat foot ulcers in the early stages,” said Dr. Michael Pulla, chief of podiatry at Robley Rex VA in Louisville, Kentucky. “A late-stage foot ulcer or infection can lead to a prolonged healing timeframe, possible hospitalization, increase in resources and result in surgery or amputation. If we can identify a possible ulcer early, we can sometimes prevent these complications.”

How remote temperature monitoring works

Veterans with diabetes who are enrolled in the remote temperature monitoring program receive a Podimetrics SmartMat. These Veterans stand on the SmartMat once daily for 20 seconds and it measures the temperature at the bottom of their feet.

If the mat detects an increase in temperature greater than 2.2 degrees Celsius at the same location of the foot for two consecutive days, Podimetrics notifies the Veteran and instructs them to check their feet for inflammation or swelling. If the temperature increase continues, Podimetrics alerts the Veteran’s VA podiatrist so they can begin care.

The SmartMat connects with cellular satellites. This means that even if a Veteran doesn’t have Wi-Fi, they can use the SmartMat.

Remote temperature monitoring saves limbs

Remote temperature monitoring reduces clinic visits, hospital admissions, development of wounds and most importantly, amputations.

“Reduction of ulcerations and amputations improves quality of life for Veterans,” said Dr. Robert Tang, chief of podiatry at San Francisco VA. “For a Veteran who has undergone a major amputation such as a lower extremity amputation, there’s a higher risk of developing a wound on the other side. The risk of mortality within five years is also very high so it’s really important to prevent that.”

Late-stage treatments such as hospitalization or amputation can be expensive. Veterans save money with early detection of possible foot conditions such as ulcers.

Pioneering preventative care

Use of the remote temperature monitoring program increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and is now being adopted nationwide. More and more Veterans are enrolling in the program to access this lifesaving preventative care.

VA is exploring additional innovative projects to prevent diabetes-related limb loss. Cincinnati VA is conducting a field study to explore the efficacy of unique and promising monitoring technologies, including a smart insole and a smart sock.

The Orpyx insoles continually monitor plantar pressure, temperature, step count and daily usage. VA care teams monitor Veteran data and can intervene based on concerning trends. Siren Socks continuously track foot temperature throughout the day and alert a remote care team when a potential injury is detected.

“I’ve treated several Veterans with late-stage infections resulting in amputation who potentially may have had a different outcome had this program been available to them at the time,” Dr. Pulla said. “Anything that can do that for a Veteran is a powerful practice to have available.”

To learn more about the SmartMat, visit the VA Diffusion Marketplace website.