How Does the Clinical Practice of Aotearoa New Zealand Podiatrists Align with International Guidelines for the Prevention of Diabetes-Related Foot Disease? A Cross-Sectional Survey
BACKGROUND: Given the importance of preventive care for the lower limb in people with diabetes, and the absence of local guidelines in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ), the aim of this study was to determine the alignment of assessment and management used in the prevention of diabetes-related foot disease by NZ podiatrists to the international prevention guideline recommendations.
METHODS: A 37-item web-based survey was developed using a 5-point Likert scale (0 = always; 5 = never) based on the International Working Group of the Diabetic Foot (IWGDF) 2019 prevention guidelines and included domains on participant demographics, sector, caseloads, guidelines, screening, management, education, and referral. The survey was distributed to NZ podiatrists through the NZ podiatry association and social media. Participants completing > 50% of items were included. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to examine differences between sector subgroups.
RESULTS: Seventy-seven responses (16.3% of the NZ podiatry workforce) were received, of which 52 completed > 50% of items and were included. Of those 52 podiatrists, 73% were from the private sector. Public sector podiatrists reported higher weekly caseloads of patients with diabetes (p = 0.03) and foot ulcers (p < 0.001). The New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes (NZSSD) risk stratification pathway and IWGDF guidelines were the two most frequently utilised guidance documents. Participants reported median scores of at least "often" (< 2) for all items in the assessment and management, inspection, examination, and education provision domains for people with a high-risk foot. More than 50% of respondents reported screening more frequently than guideline recommendations for people with a very low to moderate risk foot. Structured education program was only used by 4 (5%) participants. Public sector podiatrists reported greater provision of custom-made footwear (p = 0.04) and multi-disciplinary team care (p = 0.03).
CONCLUSION: NZ podiatrists generally follow international guideline recommendations with respect to screening, self-care education, appropriate footwear, and treatment of risk factors for people at-risk of diabetes-related foot disease. However there may be over-screening of people with very low to medium risk occurring in clinical practice. Increasing access to integrated healthcare, custom-made footwear and structured educational programmes appear to be areas of practice that could be developed in future to help prevent diabetes-related foot disease in NZ.