Here’s a slam dunk story about a home-based smart device paired with AI-driven analysis to improve health and wellbeing. Independence Blue Cross and virtual care management company Podimetrics recently agreed to use the Podimetrics’ SmartMat to detect early signs of diabetic foot complications. According to Podimetrics, the SmartMat detects warning signs of issues with diabetics’ foot health up to five weeks before the problems appear clinically. The SmartMat is FDA cleared and has the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) Seal of Approval.

Patients step on the SmartMat for 20 seconds each day. The mat reads patient foot temperature and sends the data via a cellular data connection to a Podimetrics virtual care team. The care team uses machine-learning algorithms to detect early signs of foot health complications from the SmartMat data. If the team finds problems, it alerts the patient and the patient’s care provider.

Podimetrics cited peer-reviewed retroactive analysis research published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care. In the open study — which had no control group — researchers from Podimetrics and the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group enrolled 80 patients with a healed diabetic foot ulcer in a 12-month foot ulcer prevention program using Podimetrics SmartMat. When the year-long test period ended, the researchers evaluated diabetic foot-related outcomes and resource utilization. The study found relatively high rates of recurrence of problems and resource use in the two-years prior to the test period and in the time after the test. During the test period, however, recurring diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs), hospitalizations, and health system resource utilization decreased significantly.

Daily foot temperature measurements are an accepted way to prevent DFUs from recurring. The Permanente and Podimetrics study is the first to report on patient resource usage. The study results indicated that there were 91% fewer DFUs during the test period. Hospitalization rates were about 50% lower during the test period than before or after the study. The Permanente study itemized several potential variables that could have contributed positively or negative to the test results, which begs additional research to validate the conclusions.

The overall success of the Permanente study in DFU patient problem recurrence and resource utilization supported the Independence Blue Cross decision to partner with Podimetrics.