Podimetrics CEO Jon Bloom on how his company is working to prevent diabetes-related amputations

Why health providers should give diabetic foot ulcers as much attention as cancer.
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Jon Bloom

· 5 min read

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This week’s Making Rounds spotlights Jon Bloom, the co-founder and CEO of Podimetrics, a medtech solution startup for diabetic foot-related conditions, which disproportionately affect Black and rural populations.

Bloom spoke with Healthcare Brew about how medical devices, like Podimetrics’s SmartMat, can help save the limbs of diabetic patients, as well as prevent hospitalizations and related health system spending.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in healthcare?

My job is trying to find the big problems in healthcare, then organize teams and the resources to go after them. We found a whopper of a problem here: Diabetes-related amputations are devastating some of our most vulnerable communities. It’s an opportunity now to try to focus on solving a problem in a way that the healthcare system alone isn’t really capable of doing. They don’t have access to the same capital or innovation or technologies.

Why did you decide to focus on addressing diabetes-related amputations?

It wasn’t like we said, “Hey, we’re going to solve this problem.” My co-founder David Linders had an inkling that this was going to be a good area to focus on. When I heard him talk about foot ulcers, it was like a lightning bolt—it was really quite startling just because of how much time and how much thinking he’d already done on this problem.

In medical school, the singular most memorable patient that I ever saw was actually in the emergency room. She had very large bandages on both legs—all the way up to above the knees—and as soon as she wheeled in, you were instantly hit with the scent of Pseudomonas and Staph aureus, which are two really mean bugs. It was quickly clear that she was probably not going to leave the hospital. It was just like, how could it have gotten this bad? How could these wounds have occurred—and potentially so quickly—catching everyone so off guard? I followed her as best I could through the hospital but unfortunately, we just caught it too late. Fast forward to residency, I would spend whole days in the operating room doing nothing but amputations—it almost felt like a conveyor belt of Civil War medicine. It just felt so needless that we would be so behind the eight ball, that we were catching them so late that they had to see me in the operating room.

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When David stood up and said, “Foot ulcers just don’t make sense!” I was like, he’s right, and I beelined to him and that was it.

Can you tell me about the SmartMat and how it works?

Diabetic foot is an interesting problem: It’s often silent, it’s occurring in patient populations where you typically see gaps in health literacy and tech literacy. So how can we build something so simple, yet hopefully universal, that we can impact a problem that’s basically the size of cancer? To get an amputation, your five-year mortality is twice that of most cancers—it’s greater than most of the most deadly cancers that we have—and yet the cost is on the same order of magnitude. There’s so much we do for cancer, and yet for diabetic foot, there’s very limited system technologies available.

What we created was this mat. You charge it once a month, you step on it for 20 seconds and then just go on with the rest of your life. That movement gives us wonderful access to data: How is that foot actually evolving? And then being able to actually bring nurses to that patient the moment that it’s needed, as opposed to waiting for that patient to see me in the operating room.

Why do you think diabetes-related amputations don’t get as much attention in healthcare circles as other conditions?

This condition devastates many of the most vulnerable patient populations that many of us just don’t see. We don’t see it because it’s devastating Black communities in the South; it’s just devastating our Native Americans—it’s so devastating to these populations. Growing up in a white, middle-class home, I don’t think I saw it to the extent that it was really here. It also has some odd health services complexity—there’s like 200 codes that make up diabetic foot complications. You can only really manage what you measure, and because it was so spread out across all these codes, no healthcare organization or health plan really ever recognized just how much costs, morbidity, and mortality was a result of this. It was like almost a problem undercover—a problem the size of cancer.

Now we’re starting to see a lot more recognition of the problem—the mortality, the costs. It’s about as much as $100 billion in annual expenses in the United States to care for one patient. That’s a whopper of a problem.

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Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.