Foot care practices, services and perceptions of risk among medicare beneficiaries with diabetes at high and low risk for future foot complications.
A cohort of Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes was identified from inpatient and outpatient claims data and their risk for foot complications was estimated based on claims reflecting services for recent foot problems. A telephone survey of a random sample from this cohort was conducted to assess their foot care practices, barriers, and perceptions of risk. Eight percent of respondents reported a history of foot ulcers and 7% a history of lower extremity amputation. Based on claims data, 30% of respondents were at high risk for future foot complications. Compared to those at low risk, those at high risk were more likely to report having an annual foot exam, using protective footwear, and perceiving themselves to be high risk for future foot complications. However, 50% of those with claims indicating a high risk perceived themselves to be at low risk for future foot complications. Overall, 20% of respondents seldom checked their feet daily for sores or irritations. Among this group, 60% felt that it was unimportant and 9% reported they were limited by poor vision or physical problems. Our findings suggest that strategies are needed to improve the delivery of preventive foot care services to older persons with diabetes. Additionally, emphasis is needed to help individuals understand their risk and seek and perform appropriate preventive foot care.