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01-12-2020 | Research | Uitgave 1/2020 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2020

Organizational changes in diabetic foot care practices for patients at low and moderate risk after implementing a comprehensive foot care program in Alberta, Canada

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2020
Catherine B. Chan, Kathy Dmytruk, Michele Labbie, Petra O’Connell
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Supplementary information

Supplementary information accompanies this paper at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-020-00393-0.

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Neuropathy and vasculopathy can lead to costly and debilitating complications in people with diabetes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate, at an organizational level, uptake of practices included in a diabetic foot care clinical pathway and associated resources. This research focused on patients at low and moderate risk in Alberta, Canada between 2014 to 2019.


Serial surveys (2014, 2019) of practices related to screening and care of the feet of people with diabetes. Surveys were administered using a combination of targeted and snowball sampling in order to assess the impact of the clinical pathway first implemented in 2015. The pathway focused on screening, assessment and referral of patients from primary care. High-risk foot teams (HRFT) were established at six sites to provide increased access to specialty care. Comparative statistics were performed to assess differences in footcare practices between 2014 and 2019 using two-tailed Fisher’s exact test or Chi-square test.


Respondents (n = 104, 2014 and n = 75, 2019) included personnel from primary health care, home care and long-term care, acute and emergency care, specialty clinics, diabetes-specific programs and private contractors. The proportion of primary care and home care/long-term care (HC/LTC) sites providing screening increased significantly (p < 0.05). A significant increase in the proportion of sites providing assessment for patients designated as moderate risk also increased from 35% (34 out of 96 sites) to 55% (36 out of 65 sites) (p < 0.05), particularly with respect to vascular assessment, and the proportion of sites reporting appropriate follow-up intervals according to the pathway recommendation was also improved.


Provision of a clinical pathway for diabetic foot care along with education and resources led to increased screening in primary care and HC/LTC settings in Alberta, Canada. HRFT provided primary healthcare providers with an important option for referral and also provided increased expertise for procedures such as vascular assessment for patients with moderate risk of ulceration. This comprehensive model has the potential to reduce progression of foot problems and overall health services utilization. Further analyses of outcomes such as incident lower limb amputation and long-term cost-effectiveness of pathway implementation are underway.

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