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The numbers on the diabetes epidemic show just how big of a problem it really is, with the American Diabetes Association identifying 30 million people in the U.S. who already have it, while 84 million more people who are at risk. There are so many patients who are diabetic or pre-diabetic now that the cost of care totals $322 billion a year.
With a market that large, tech was bound to become interested, and so a slew of companies have arisen, all raising money to tackle the problem from different angles. Some target the cause of the disease itself, some tackle the symptoms of those who already have it.
One of the companies in the latter camp is Podimetrics, a care management company that is looking to eradicate diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs). On Thursday, the company announced that it closed a $13.4 million Series B funding round from investors that included Rock Health, Norwich Ventures, and Scientific Health Development. This round brings Podimetrics' total funding to $16 million.
"One of the most expensive and most common complications of diabetes is diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs), a debilitating condition that can lead to immobility, extensive treatments and, in many cases, amputation. This shouldn’t happen anymore. There’s no reason for people to lose their feet because of diabetes," Dr. Jon Bloom, co-founder and CEO of Podimetrics, told me.
"The good news is, most of these ulcers can be prevented before they become problematic, as long as they are detected early enough."
Podimetrics's solution involves a cellular-connected SmartMat that patients place their feet on for just 20 seconds a day; they can even use it while sitting down. The SmartMat uses thermometric technology to detect hotspots on the feet, which is a sign of a forthcoming ulcer. Data from the SmartMat is sent to the Podimetrics care team, which monitors daily readings and triages any findings they find to be concerning. That way, patients can get appropriate care under the direction of their clinician, often before the DFU ever appears.
"Many of the patients we work with have had type 2 diabetes for a while and it’s often poorly controlled. These patients additionally have some degree of neuropathy, often leading to a completely insensate foot," said Bloom. "Typically the patient we work with has had a DFU before and we are working together with their clinician to prevent the next one from occurring."
Not only do 65 percent of patients who have had a DFU will have one again within five years, but the amputations that result are, on top of being difficult on the patient, costly as well; a single DFU-related amputation can cost as much as $100,000.
"By detecting potential ulcers before they appear, Podimetrics can drastically reduce and in some cases eliminate these costs," said Bloom.
DFUs are an especially big problem among veterans: the VA alone spends more than $3 billion a year on DFUs, and more than 80 percent of the non-traumatic amputations in the VA are a result of these ulcers.
"This is a big problem within the veteran population and the VA system has made preventing DFUs a big priority. This is a population that tends to be at higher risk. They’re more likely to be medically complex and about one in four veterans has diabetes," Bloom explained.
Podimetrics has a partnership with the VA: it is currently in 14 VA medical centers, while the VA also recently released a national guidance document recommending Podimetrics for high-risk patients. The new funding will go toward deepening the relationship between Podimetrics and the VA, along with commercial payers as well.
"We were founded in 2011 and since then we’ve really kept our heads down, building the best solution, grounded in evidence and doing clinical trials, becoming cleared by the FDA and nationally recommended by the VA. We’ve also been reaching more and more patients: we’re currently in 14 VA medical centers and piloting with commercial payers," said Bloom.
"We’re at a point now where we have all the pieces in place so we can really grow rapidly, and we’re excited to be seriously expanding the number of patients we can help."
The vision for Podimetrics is, of course, to eventually eliminate DFUs entirely.
"Treating diabetic foot ulcers can be one of the most impactful ways to change diabetes management because they are prevalent and expensive, yet largely preventable. Our vision is for the diabetes community to have the tools necessary to treat and manage their disease, and Podimetrics is providing one of those tools," Bloom told me.
"We are excited to continue providing our cutting-edge technology, combined with best-in-class management, to help dramatically increase the number of patients who are plagued with horrible complications associated with diabetes."
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Podimetrics is a care management company with the leading solution to help prevent diabetic foot ulcers (DFU), one of the most debilitating and costly complications of diabetes. On behalf of payers and at-risk providers, we send high-risk patients our FDA-cleared, cellular-connected SmartMat. After placing their feet on the mat for just 20 seconds a day, patients’ data are automatically sent to our care management team that triages any concerning findings. By combining cutting-edge technology with best-in-class care management, Podimetrics earns high engagement rates from patients and allows clinicians to achieve unparalleled outcomes saving limbs, lives, and money. Founded in 2011 by a physician and engineers from MIT and Harvard, Podimetrics is headquartered in Somerville, MA and backed by Norwich Ventures, Scientific Health Development, and Rock Health. For more information, go to www.podimetrics.com or follow us on Twitter @podimetrics.
Joined Vator onDr. Jon Bloom is a board-certified physician and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in technology development, patient monitoring, biomedical research, and health care delivery. He currently serves as CEO of Podimetrics.