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Essentials For Diabetic Shoe Fitting Success By Josh White, DPM, CPed

I recently visited a team a podiatrist’s office. They have been a part of the Therapeutic Shoe Program and fitting diabetic patients with shoes for many years. I appreciated their interested in learning how they could improve what could be considered a “good” shoe program, and in going from “good” to “better” or even “great.”

All staff members were encouraged to attend, including: the front office person, who is the eyes and ears of the practice, and who reminds the doctors which patients have diabetes and are due for an annual comprehensive diabetic foot exam (CDFE); the fitting person, who measures, fits and laces patients’ shoes – critical to the program’s success.

We reviewed how the Medicare Therapeutic Shoe Program provides win – win – win benefits for all: patients benefit by getting shoes they need for little or no cost, by doing so, they also decrease their risk for ulceration and amputation, and the office makes money while improving patient satisfaction (and Medicare actually reduces costs).

We reiterated the importance of clearly defining each step in the evaluation and shoe fitting process, and confirmed that while there could be more than one person performing each task, there must be a single person responsible for its execution.

And lastly, we defined the metrics for determining the success of each step – as well as for the program overall.

Here are the steps and how to determine successful execution:

  • Determine the number of patients in the practice with Medicare and diabetes. Every patient should have a dedicated visit for an annual comprehensive diabetic foot evaluation (CDFE) scheduled on a separate visit. This visit can performed by or overseen by the DPM and billed as 99213 if a predisposing condition of ulcerative risk is determined and a plan of care prescribed. Printed copies of the CDFE form are available, for free, from SafeStep upon request. Here is a link to the form: http://safestep.net/safestep/PDF/CDFE(Interactive).pdf?id=431. Note: Someone should track the number of CDFE exams performed (on an ongoing basis), and compare it to the number of patients with diabetes in the practice.
  •  Conservatively, 75% of patients with Medicare and diabetes will have a qualifying risk factor and should be prescribed therapeutic shoes. When scheduling patients, either have a shoe fitting person in the practice available to assist on that day or consider OHI’s Central Casting Program, an on-site Pedorthic service availing Certified Pedorthist to assist podiatrists with examining, casting and fitting patients.
  • Every shoe fitter and CPed should use the “4S’s approach to shoe fitting” which are: Size, Shape, Stability, Style to fit and pair the shoes that meet each patients’ aesthetic desires and therapeutic needs. It’s important to have shoe samples in the styles patients most prefer, and to update them periodically. Fitting displays or a small fitting inventory will go a long way to improve fitting success and patient satisfaction. Patients whose fitting needs exceed what’s possible with depth shoes should either be casted for custom molded shoes or referred to a local footwear clinic. The SafeStep website displays the practice’s “Fit Rate”. If not 85% or better, help is available to fit at least as well as is done by the average office.
  • Use SafeStep’s WorryFree DME program to create Medicare compliance documentation and to procure required authorization from the certifying MD physician. SafeStep’s team of professionals and dedicated services help you save time, and build your practice.
  • When dispensing shoes, emphasize to patients the importance of daily footcare and self-examination to check for signs of ulceration. Encourage them to wear their fitted shoes and inserts as a preventative measure, and to return on an annual basis to be re-evaluated for replacement shoes each year.
  • The true indicators of a successful diabetic shoe program is when the number of shoes fitted increases each year, and the number of wounds treated decreases. While some practices have been deterred from fitting shoes because of the effort required and concerns about Medicare audits, many enjoy the success that this preventative care indicative was intended to achieve. Read the article “Keys for Success for Fitting Diabetic Shoes” to learn more.
  • Qualifying patients should be scheduled for an evaluation and fitted with shoes annually. Despite the benefits, most practices refit less than 25% of patients from one year to the next when all it takes is an outreach effort to patients from each year. Your SafeStep homepage displays the practice “Repeat Rate”. There are tools available, including patient lists, which can be used to facilitate a recall program, to ensure that every patient is evaluated annually to be refit with replacement shoes. To better understand the true value to your practice, read “The $40,000, 4 Hour per Week Diabetic Shoe Program”. The article describes how little time is actually needed, if the program is organized effectively, to yield significant benefits to patients and to the practice.
  • Successful practices set goals at the beginning of each year and monitor their performance on an ongoing basis. To recap, key metrics for ensuring program success include:
    1. The number of annual CDFE’s performed on patients with Medicare. Compare to the number of patients with Medicare and diabetes in the practice. Every patient should have at least one annual evaluation.
    2. The number of shoe fit, covered by Medicare. Conservatively, 75% of patients with Medicare and diabetes will have a qualifying risk factor and should be fit with shoes.
    3. Shoe fit rate. Should be 85% or better. Track on SafeStep Members Home Page. If lower than it should be, assistance is available to help improve.
    4. Refit Rate: Should be 75% by end of year.

Successful practices create incentive programs to reward staff members responsible for each of these key metrics.

  • Further assistance is available by scheduling a One-on-One Training Session with a SafeStep DME Specialist. Topics include:
  • “The WorryFree DME Shoe Ordering Process”
  • Diagnosis Specific DME Treatment Protocols for AFOs
  • AFO and Shoe Compliance Documentation
  • 18 Surefire Ways to Improve Your Shoe Fitting
  • Fall Risk Management Made Easy with Moore Balance
  • The CDFE Strategy

I hope you find this article helpful. I truly enjoy writing these articles and working with practices to help them become more successful. Our friendly SafeStep customer service team is available to assist you with your account and all programs, products, services.