New research out of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia suggests that diabetic foot disease is costing Australians millions of dollars each year.
To determine the total cost of diabetic foot disease and related conditions, researchers examined a sample of diabetic patients across five hospitals in Queensland.
“Our study, which investigated a representative sample of hospitalized patients in five hospitals across metropolitan and regional Queensland, found 4.6% of all patients had active diabetic foot disease and nearly half of those were in hospital because of their diabetic foot disease,” said Peter Lazzarini, co-chair of Diabetic Foot Australia and senior research fellow at QUT. “This equates to 27,600 hospitalizations each year caused by diabetic foot disease in Australia, which puts diabetic foot disease easily in the top 20 causes of hospitalization in Australia.”
According to the research, one in every 22 patients in Australian hospitals has an active diabetic foot disease. Lazzarini said this amounted to an annual direct cost to Australia for hospitalization alone of $350 million.
“This figure is much higher than we previously thought and is still very much a conservative estimate, because this cost only relates to patients admitted because of their diabetic foot disease in public hospitals,” he said, adding that it can progress further and take a much greater toll. “If diabetic foot disease is left untreated it can quite easily result in hospitalization, amputation and even death,” he said.
Preventing Diabetic Foot Disease
These numbers are concerning, and odds are we’re dealing with an even bigger issue here in America. Considering we have about 14 times the population in the US compared to Australia, if we were to multiple Lazzairini’s conservative estimate times 14, that suggests that diabetic foot disease is costing America roughly $5 billion annually.
Thankfully, Lazzarini offered a tip for helping decrease the total cost of diabetic foot disease – early prevention.
“We know from our previous research in Australia that when people with diabetic foot disease receive this recommended multi-disciplinary foot care we can prevent around half of the hospitalizations, amputations and costs that would have occurred without this care,” said Lazzarini. “Diabetic foot disease is a readily preventable disease if diagnosed and treated early.”
He went on to share some more tips on catching, preventing and treating diabetic foot disease.
“Our study, and similar research from Europe and the US, firstly recommends everyone with diabetes presenting to a hospital needs to have their feet screened for diabetic foot disease. This would help identify nearly everyone who presents to an Australian hospital that needs treatment for this disease but doesn’t necessarily know it.
“Secondly, everyone who is found to have diabetic foot disease needs to be seen by a multi-disciplinary foot disease team both in and out of hospital. In the UK they are up in arms that 20% of their hospitals do not have these teams. We estimate only 20% of our hospitals in Australia actually have these teams and this needs to significantly improve.
“Thirdly, people with diabetes need to see their GP or podiatrist at least every year for a foot screen. Unfortunately, people with diabetes can lose feeling in their feet and left unchecked diabetic foot disease can develop in the form of sores, infections and poor circulation. We know that about 50 per cent of the over one million Australians with diabetes have a foot screen each year. This means we don’t know if diabetic foot disease has affected the other 50 per cent and sometimes it’s too late when we do. If we can pick up diabetic foot disease early and refer people to these multi-disciplinary foot teams we can prevent thousands of hospitalizations, amputations and even deaths.
“We know these simple preventative measures can save our hospital system millions and millions of dollars each year, but most importantly, change the lives of thousands of Australians with diabetes by empowering them to keep both their feet firmly on the ground and out of hospital.