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IU Health launches pilot program to help serve COVID-19 patients with diabetes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A new pilot program at Indiana University Health is helping to serve patients with both COVID -19 and diabetes while protecting hospital workers from the virus.

According to the hospital, at any given time 50% of COVID-19 patients at IU Health Methodist Hospital are on insulin.

Doctors know when patients with diabetes experience an infection or period of high stress, their blood glucose levels increase. But with COVID-19 Dr. Swapnil Khare, an endocrinologist at IU Health, says patients with diabetes experience even higher levels and need more insulin to control their blood sugar.

“The higher the blood glucose the slower the recovery rate and the longer time a person may need to be on a ventilator,” said Dr. Khare.

Because the need for insulin increases with COVID-19, this could mean staff and nurses end up in a patient’s room four to five times just to do finger pricks which increases exposure and also uses a lot more personal protective equipment (PPE).

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In an effort to conserve PPE and limit that interaction, the hospital is now piloting the in-patient use of continuous blood glucose monitors.

These devices attach to a patient’s body allowing staff to remotely read their levels.

Conserving PPE was the main objective for the pilot which is now two months old, but IU Health has experienced the added benefit of these monitors abstracting data 24/7.

“The finger stick was to check blood glucose and make the treatment decision, but now that this device is checking it, we don’t need to check as often. We do check to make sure the device has no error or anything like that, but definitely, the frequency does go down,” Dr. Khare added.

The hospital worked to get the pilot up and running, but the next step is to extend the program to other parts of the hospital.

Dr. Khare says some people with COVID-19 who don’t have diabetes are also experiencing high levels of blood glucose. But she also adds that less than 10% continue to have symptoms of diabetes after the virus is cleared.

For patients who come into the hospital with both the virus and diabetes, Dr. Khare says the pilot has so far been effective at keeping more people safe.

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