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How Successful Podiatric Practices Make the Medicare Therapeutic Shoe Program Work

Podiatric practices fitting diabetic shoes are, on average, fitting more pair each year.  These practices have figured out how to work with Medicare’s ever changing requirements and have adapted their office protocols to capitalize on the opportunity that literally walks through their door every day.  The results are better patient outcomes, significant growth in practice revenue and overall savings to Medicare.  Despite the success of some practices, the number of diabetic shoes fit by podiatrists overall has decreased as a significant number of practices have given up fitting footwear.  In this 6 part series, we’ll share the keys to success of practices that have figured out how to make therapeutic footwear an increasing effective part of patient care and a significant contributor to practice profitability.

With an obesity epidemic and 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, demographers predict that the number of people with Medicare and diabetes will quadruple over the next 20 years.  How then can it be that podiatrists fit less diabetic shoes in 2010 than in 2008?  The numbers of pairs of shoes paid for by Medicare decreased from 310,640 in 2008 to 309,223 in 2010, the most recent year that BMAD (Part B Medicare Annual Data) information is available.

The Therapeutic Shoe Program offers patients with diabetes at risk for ulceration the opportunity to be fit with shoes and inserts each year.  Patients are protected from ulceration and amputation.  For each pair successfully fit, podiatrists earn approximately $200.  Medicare benefits from the cost effectiveness of including therapeutic footwear as an important component of a comprehensive approach to diabetic preventative foot care.

Despite these advantages, Podiatry Management reports a significant drop in the percentage of podiatrists who participated in the Medicare Diabetic Shoe Program.  In the PM 2012 Annual Survey, only 44 percent of 363 surveyed DPMs said that they fit shoes using the program versus 65% in the 2011 study.

In the next 5 blog posts, we’ll address the reasons why podiatrists have dropped out of the Medicare shoe program and present solutions to encourage them to get back in.  We’ll also identify a significant opportunity that exists in most practices fitting shoes and suggest how it can be used to help both patients and the practice.