Amputations due to diabetes appear to be on the rise. In a 2018 study published by the The American Journal of Managed Care, the rate of lower-limb amputations increased by 50 perfect between 2009 and 2015. The increase was especially marked in young and middle-aged adults, who are less likely be to insured than senior citizens, who qualify for Medicare.
According to Dr Foluso A Fakorede, cardiologist and national advocate for ending health disparities, African-Americans are four times more likely to experience amputations related to diabetes than white people. The increase in amputations also coincides with exorbitant insulin costs over the past several years, which cause patients to skip doses and ration their insulin—and jeopardise their health in the long run.
“In the United States, every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes, and everyday 230 Americans with diabetes will suffer an amputation,” Dr Fakorede wrote in the study. “Throughout the world, it is estimated that every 30 seconds a leg is amputated. And 85 percent of these amputations were the result of a diabetic foot ulcer.”
Siren Care, a telehealth startup that’s building washable wearable technology, has created a pair of socks to help people with diabetes monitor their feet and detect possibly dangerous injuries sooner. Founded in 2015, the company won the TechCrunch CES Hardware Battlefield in 2017 and the CES Best of Innovation in 2018 for its smart fabric technology.
“I don’t see ourselves as a diabetic foot company,” CEO Ran Ma told TechCrunch in 2017.” I think we’re a data company and next-generation wearables. The next generation will be targeted toward chronic disease, ageing, health management—and also in a way that’s designed to fit into your lives. Instead of having bands, it should be the clothes you wear every day.”
According to Ma, who studied wound care as part of her master’s, diabetes-related amputations are often due to injuries that go undetected. As diabetes can cause nerve damage that affects the feet, injuries and ulcers can develop that are unnoticed until it is too late.
The socks consistently track temperature changes throughout the foot, as an increase in temperature may be due to an ongoing injury. Through the Siren Care platform, patients receive access to help them monitor trends and inform their doctor about possible anomalies in their health.
With the novel coronavirus preventing patients from visiting the doctor unnecessarily, Ma believes such technology is crucial for the future of healthcare.
“COVID-19 has changed healthcare now and forever,” she said in a statement. “Digitisation and virtual care is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have. Patients need remote patient monitoring to collect and send crucial health data to their physicians. Clinics, by transitioning some medical staff into virtual monitoring, can stay operational, prevent job loss, and allow patients continued access to care.”
The company has raised $11.8 million in Series B funding led by Anathem Ventures, with participation from DCM, Khosla Ventures, 500 Startups, and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, leading to a total of $22 million.
“When we initially invested, what I saw was a resourceful team and a creative and elegant product that would represent an enormous improvement for patient care and cost-effective physician workflows in any environment,” said DCM Partner Jason Krikorian. “The current pandemic has made it clear that remote monitoring solutions will be a critical part of any physician’s practice.”
Siren socks are currently available in 10 US states, with plans to expand nationwide by the end of 2020.