The mechanisms for the observed disparities in diabetes-related amputation are poorly understood and could be related to access for diabetic foot ulceration (DFU) care. This qualitative study aimed to understand patients’ personal experiences navigating the healthcare system and the barriers they faced.
Fifteen semi-structured interviews were conducted over the phone between June 2020 to February 2021. Participants with DFUs were recruited from a tertiary referral center in Southern Arizona. The interviews were audio-recorded and analyzed according to the NIMHD Research Framework, focusing on the health care system domain.
Among the 15 participants included in the study, the mean age was 52.4 years (66.7% male), 66.7% was from minority racial groups, and 73.3% was Medicaid or Indian Health Service beneficiaries. Participants frequently reported barriers at various levels of the healthcare system.
On the individual level, themes that arose included health literacy and inadequate insurance coverage resulting in financial strain. On the interpersonal level, participants complained of fragmented relationships with providers and experienced challenges in making follow-up appointments. On the community level, participants reported struggles with medical equipment.
On the societal level, participants also noted insufficient preventative foot care and education before DFU onset, and many respondents experienced initial misdiagnoses and delays in receiving care.
Patients with DFUs face significant barriers in accessing medical care at many levels in the healthcare system and beyond. These data highlight opportunities to address the effects of diabetic foot complications and the inequitable burden of inadequately managed diabetic foot care.