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November 05, 2020

New glucose management option helps COVID-19 patients

IU Health Methodist Hospital

New glucose management option helps COVID-19 patients

Since the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals have learned that patients with the virus have high insulin resistance. Now IU Health Methodist Hospital is introducing a way to help monitor those glucose levels during hospital stays.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

A long history stands behind IU Health practitioners treating patients with diabetes. In 1922, IU Health Methodist Hospital partnered with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company as one of the first hospitals in the country to administer a life-saving insulin shot to a patient with Type I diabetes.

And now, during National Diabetes Awareness Month, IU Health Methodist Hospital is piloting the use of Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) for patients who test positive for COVID-19. Similar to how the virus attacks the immune system, research now suggests patients without a previous diagnosis of diabetes who test positive for COVID-19 have abnormally high blood sugar levels.

“COVID causes a huge stress on their system and that can lead to elevated blood sugar,” said IU Health Nurse Mary Ellen Neal, program manager of system patient safety. “At the same time, those patients who have already been diagnosed with diabetes and test positive for COVID-19 have difficulty regulating their blood sugar,” said Neal. Researchers have long believed that abnormally high blood sugar is associated with an elevated risk of mortality in patients with symptoms of pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, trauma and surgery. People with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes may be at a greater risk of illness from COVID-19.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued new policies clearing the way for hospitals to use certain devices to measure remotely measure patients’ vital signs. Another modification allows for the use of CGA devices for in-patients.

“In any given day, 50 percent of our patients were on insulin with COVID,” said Neal. The process of introducing the CGA monitoring is gradual, she added, and will occur only with patient consent.

The plan to implement the use of CGA monitoring means: increases in real-time glucose readings and at the same time, helping patients manage their glucose. The monitors offer readings every five minutes and include alerts to indicate abnormal glucose levels. It also limits the number of staff members visiting a patient’s room leading to a potential transmission of the virus.

“The process will begin with one patient and we will continually evaluate and improve as we go,” said Neal. This initiative aligns IU Health with other leading hospitals across the nation implementing the FDA-usage of the in-patient devices.

The IU Health Inpatient Glucose Management team provides a variety of tools and resources to help provide the best care for patients managing blood glucose levels during hospitalization.

Resources include carbohydrate counting tools and references, nutrition and food services, and a computerized insulin therapy program.

For more information contact Mary Ellen Neal at (317) 962-5698 or mneal5@iuhealth.org.

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