Veterans with diabetes who are vulnerable to foot infections, ulcerations and amputation have a new tool in their arsenal to help keep them healthy.
And it involves simply stepping on a mat for 20 seconds a day.
The non-invasive Podimetrics mat offers detection of diabetic foot ulcers as early as five to six weeks before they would otherwise be diagnosed, said Dr. Ryan Vega, executive director of the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem.
“It’s easy to use,” he said of the mat.
After a veteran stands on the mat, their information is recorded and uploaded to the cloud. In the cloud, Podimetrics’ artificial intelligence system analyzes it for signs of diabetic foot ulcers.
Vega said the radiation-free mat uses special thermal imaging to measure the temperature of a patient’s feet. The technology allows doctors to prevent potential complications such as amputations.
“Veterans face a five-year mortality rate of 43 percent after developing their first DFU,” said Vega.
Last year, VA treated 75,000 DFUs, which accounted for more than 80% of non-traumatic amputations in VA, at a cost of more than $3.2 billion, said Vega.
The average cost incurred by the VA 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.
A VA-led study in 2017 connected Vega to the technology. The mat is currently used in 40 VA locations for high-risk patients who are most vulnerable to DFUs.