Shoe certification good fit for provider

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

WARREN, Mich. - With nearly 25 years in the diabetes business, Bob and Mark Gielniak understand the importance of putting one's best foot forward.
"A lot of people don't have good fitting shoes. They have neuropathy and can't even tell," said Bob Gielniak, vice president of Diabetes Plus. "With diabetic feet, you're looking for a good shoe that's lightweight and has a little more room in the toe area."
The brothers added diabetic shoes to their product mix of diabetes supplies a year ago but were unhappy with the local fitter they used.
"It would seem like every day, I had one or two complaints from customers," said Mark Gielniak, marketing manager. "It was the wrong color, wrong fit, wrong style. I didn't want to be associated with a poor product."
To counter that, Bob Gielniak enrolled in a weeklong correspondence course through Fla.-based manufacturer Dr. Zen to train as a fitter. The program consisted of reading, watching DVDs and a 180-question test.
Two-thirds of Diabetes Plus' business is mail order or home delivery so making house calls to shoe customers was a natural step for Bob, who spends most days on the road providing meter training or doing marketing. It's also easier for customers with foot problems, because they don't have to leave their homes.
During fittings, Bob measures the patient's foot twice and makes impressions of both feet in soft-foam boxes. The impressions and an intake form are sent to the lab along with the customer's shoe choice. The resulting inserts protect sensitive feet.
"The feet aren't sliding around in there developing blisters," he said. If the customer has a foot problem, the fitting is put on hold until the problem is addressed.
Bob travels with a dozen pairs of shoes in his car. "It's important to touch the shoe," said Bob, who also discusses needs with customers, such as whether shoes will be used for walking.
If the shoe doesn't fit or feel right for any reason, Bob makes adjustments.
Medicare reimburses for one pair of shoes and three inserts per year, said Mark. A good pair of shoes can cost nearly $100. Currently, Diabetes Plus sells 25-30 pairs a month and markets to existing customers and referral sources.