- Researchers in California are touting the mHealth benefits of a sensor-embedded sock that’s designed to continuously monitor a patient’s skin temperature.
As reported in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the mHealth wearable, designed by a San Francisco-based digital health company called Siren Care, was tested on 35 patients living with diabetes, and was successful in helping care providers monitor those patients for diabetic peripheral neuropathy and the onset of Charcot arthropathy and foot ulcers.
More than 30 million Americans, or 9 percent of the nation’s population, have been diagnosed with diabetes, and one-quarter of them will develop foot ulcers – a condition that can lead to amputation, sepsis and even death. To target this problem, connected health researchers and healthcare providers have been experimenting with remote patient monitoring platforms that enable both patients and care providers to keep track of a patient’s feet in real time.
Among the platforms being tested are a handheld scanner that measures foot temperature and looks for “hot spots” that indicate the beginnings of an ulcer, and mHealth apps that enable users to take smartphone photographs of their feet and send them to care providers.
mHealth wearables have shown the most promise to date, as they allow patients to go about their lives while care providers can monitor them from afar.
With the Siren wearable, sensors in the sock continuously monitor a patient’s foot temperature and relay that information via Bluetooth technology to an accompanying mHealth app, enabling patients to track their data via a smartphone or other mobile device and send that data to care providers.
“Diabetic foot ulcers (DFU) result in considerable cost to the healthcare system when immediate ulcers, social services, home care, and subsequent ulcers are taken into consideration,” the study’s lead author, Alexander M Reyzelman, DPM, of the California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt University, said in a press release issued by Siren. “The cost per ulcer is over $33,000 per year and the cost per leg amputation is more than $100,000 per year. Over 100,000 legs are lost to diabetes each year. In diabetic foot complications such as foot ulcers, elevated temperatures in regions of the foot have been shown to be a precursor for ulceration.”
Reyzelman, who teamed with researchers from the Northport VA Medical Center in California and Siren Care researchers in both the US and China, reported that the socks were well-received by the patients and produced data on a par with traditional in-person clinical monitoring.
“This noninvasive device designed to behave as a normal sock is the first of its kind to combine wireless continuous temperature monitoring into a wearable device,” the study concluded. “The socks appear to the wearers to be no different than standard socks. When used with the mobile app, the wearer is kept informed about temperature increases in one foot relative to the other. The socks can reliably and consistently collect temperature data from the wearer’s feet, which are consistent with clinical observations.”
Researchers are planning a large-scale test of the mHealth platform in 2019.