A Survey of Foot Orthoses Prescription Habits Amongst Podiatrists in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
Background Foot orthoses are frequently used but little is known about which types are used in contemporary practice. This study aimed to explore the types of foot orthoses currently used by podiatrists and the prescription variations in a range of conditions.
Methods A web-based, cross-sectional survey was distributed through professional bodies in the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, and New Zealand. Questions focussed on foot orthosis prescription habits in relation to 26 conditions affecting the back and lower limb.
Results Two hundred and sixty-four podiatrists practising in 19 different countries completed the survey; the majority practised in the UK (47%, n = 124), Australia (30%, n = 79) and New Zealand (12%, n = 32). Respondents qualified between 1968 and 2016, and 147 (56%) were female. Respondents worked in different healthcare sectors and this varied between countries: 42 (34%) respondents in the UK worked solely in the public sector, compared to 3 (4%) in Australia and 2 (6%) in New Zealand. Forty-four (35%) respondents in the UK worked solely in private practice, compared to 64 (81%) in Australia and 14 (44%) in New Zealand.
UK respondents prescribed more prefabricated orthoses per week (mean 5.5 pairs) than simple insole-type devices (±2.7) and customised devices (±2.9). Similarly, respondents in New Zealand prescribed more prefabricated orthoses per week (±7.7) than simple (±1.4) and customised (±2.8) devices. In contrast, those in Australia prescribed more customised orthoses per week (±4.4) than simple (±0.8) and prefabricated (±1.9) orthoses. Differences in the types of orthoses prescribed were observed between country of practice, working sector, and the condition targeted. Generally, prefabricated orthoses were commonly prescribed for the 26 highlighted conditions in the UK and New Zealand. Australian podiatrists prescribed far fewer devices overall, but when they did prescribe, they were more likely to prescribe custom devices. Respondents in all three countries were more likely to prescribe customised orthoses for people with diabetes complicated by peripheral neuropathy than for diabetes without this complication.
Conclusions Foot orthosis prescription habits vary between countries. Prefabricated orthoses were frequently prescribed in the UK and New Zealand, and customised orthoses in Australia. Prescriptions for people with diabetes differed depending on the presence of neuropathy, despite a lack of robust evidence supporting these decisions. This study provides new insight into contemporary practice.