Veterans with prostheses often experience fluctuations in residual limb volume. They adjust for the resulting changes in fit and comfort of their prosthetic sockets throughout the day using prosthetic socks of varying thickness. However, this can be difficult for a recent amputee to manage.
Too few or too many socks can create increased pressure on the end of the limb. That makes it difficult to determine when to add or remove socks. Incorrect use of socks can lead to skin damage and serious complications, such as non-healing wounds.
To address this issue, Billie Savvas Slater developed the Prosthetic Sock Management Tool (PSMT). Slater is a Research Health Science specialist and Innovation specialist at the Minneapolis VA.
Billie Savvas Slater, Research Health Science specialist
Slater is also the Senior Research Study Coordinator for the Minneapolis Adaptive Design and Engineering (MADE) Program. As a first-generation American, she has a history of Veterans in her family. Her father received his citizenship after serving in the Army. Seeing Veterans struggle with prosthetic socks, she knew there had to be a better way.
“As a non-clinician, I thought about how I could work to make a better VA and serve those who have borne the battle,” she said.
With hobbies in crafting, Slater realized she had a way to solve the problem. After making a few prototypes at home, she met with clinicians to get feedback as a basis to apply for support through the Innovators Network (iNET) Spark-Seed-Spread Innovation Investment Program in 2018.
Innovating a new tool
The PSMT consists of several different components, including a multi-zippered bag with three pouches for storage of socks of different thicknesses. It also includes an infographic on both proper sock usage and care, instructional videos and reminders for fit checks.
Because there was no existing education protocol like it, Slater’s infographic poster is displayed in clinic rooms to assist amputee patients. All 26 VA amputation clinics with Amputation Rehabilitation Coordinators are receiving the full toolkit. Locations with no coordinators receive the mountable infographic upon request.
Making an impact
Already, Slater has seen the impact with both Veterans and clinicians. One Veteran noted he was able to explain his amputation to his grandchildren for the first time using the provided infographic, empowering him to more fully be himself.
The spouse of a Veteran appreciates how the Prosthetic Sock Management Tool helps her be a more effective caregiver. A clinician reported to Slater that they, “Want to give this tool to all my patients. It allows me to do my job better.”
“Being introduced to iNET taught me how to fail smart and pivot, to not be afraid to try something new. It thrills me to tell others what may be possible. iNET continues to teach me to be innovative,” Slater said.
When asked what knowledge she passes on to her team at Minneapolis VA, Slater has a simple mantra: “If you believe in this change that you can make, don’t give up and don’t get impatient. Hope can keep it going.”
The Prosthetic Sock Management Tool will be featured on the Diffusion Marketplace later this year.
Want to support VHA IE’s innovation revolution? Visit our website to learn about opportunities to become involved in innovation at VA.
Innovation Revolutionary is a recurring series from the VA Innovation Ecosystem. It focuses on VA employees who are disrupting the status-quo, breaking down barriers, and attempting to radically revolutionize Veteran care and the employee experience.