Effect of a physician-directed educational campaign on performance of proper diabetic foot exams in an outpatient setting

J Gen Intern Med. 2003 Apr;18(4):258-65. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.10662.x.


Background: The established guidelines for a diabetes foot examination include assessing circulatory, skin, and neurological status to detect problems early and reduce the likelihood of amputation. Physician adherence to the guidelines for proper examination is less than optimal.

Objective: Our objective was to increase compliance with the performance of a proper foot examination through a predominantly physician-directed interventional campaign.

Methods: The study consisted of 3 parts: a retrospective chart review to estimate background compliance, an educational intervention, and prospective chart review at 3 and 6 months. A properly documented foot examination was defined as assessing at least 2 of the 3 necessary components. The educational intervention consisted of 2 lectures directed at resident physicians and a quality assurance announcement at a general internal medicine staff meeting. Clinic support staff were instructed to remove the shoes and socks of all diabetic patients when they were placed in exam rooms, and signs reminding diabetics were placed in each exam room.

Results: There was a significant increase in the performance of proper foot examination over the course of the study (baseline 14.0%, 3 months 58.0%, 6 months 62.1%; P <.001). Documentation of any component of a proper foot examination also increased substantially (32.6%, 67.3%, 72.5%; P <.001). Additionally, performance of each component of a proper exam increased dramatically during the study: neurological (13.5%, 35.8%, 38.5%; P <.001), skin (23.0%, 64.2%, 69.2%; P <.001), and vascular (14.0%, 51.2%, 50.5%; P <.001).

Conclusions: Patients with diabetes are unlikely to have foot examinations in their primary medical care. A simple, low-cost educational intervention significantly improved the adherence to foot examination guidelines for patients with diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / methods
  • Ambulatory Care / standards*
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Foot / diagnosis*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Texas
  • Time Factors