Digital flash glucose monitoring for patients with diabetes and COVID-19

Digital flash glucose monitoring for patients with diabetes and COVID-19
© iStock/Kosamtu

Flash glucose monitoring was found to be as effective as traditional methods in patients with diabetes and COVID-19.

Patients with diabetes are at a higher risk of poor outcomes and severe illness if they develop COVID-19; careful glucose monitoring is necessary to ensure appropriate glycaemic control during any acute illness such as COVID-19.

Flash glucose monitoring is a method to measure sugar levels without having to prick your fingers. It is a small sensor that is worn under the skin and it records glucose levels continuously throughout the day and night.

Researchers from WMG at the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwick NHS Trust.

Flash glucose monitoring for diabetes

To support the management of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 who also have diabetes at UHCW, digital flash glucose monitoring devices were used as part of a nationally leading research project. Researchers from WMG at the University of Warwick, and UHCW evaluated the benefits of this research.

They found that patients could be monitored as effectively as using traditional methods, such as finger pricks and time was saved, allowing staff to care for more patients. Furthermore, the patients utilising the non-invasive flash glucose monitoring device were adequately cared for and freed up resources which consequently allowed targeted care and monitoring of high-risk patients.

Professor Theo Arvanitis from WMG, University of Warwick, commented: “Traditional ways of measuring glucose levels are time-consuming and put pressure on resources, especially when under pressure from the pandemic, therefore the use of flash glucose monitoring can help free up resources.

“We are pleased to have carried out the first pilot inpatient use of digital flash glucose monitors in an NHS hospital. Overall, there are strong arguments for the inpatient use of these devices in the COVID-19 setting, as we have found that this approach is effective in monitoring patients and can help NHS workers when resources are tight.”

Professor Harpal Randeva from UHCW NHS Trust commented: “The use of these devices frees nursing time, allows closer monitoring of patients and is popular with them. Building on this evaluation, we have now offered devices to over 400 patients with diabetes and COVID-19 and feel this project represents a key step-change in providing care for people with diabetes in hospital. This approach builds on UHCW NHS Trusts Vision of being a National and International leader in healthcare, with a clear focus on world-leading digital technology.”

Gathering data

Data was gathered from patients who were monitored during their stays. The researchers analysed this data and explored the potential associations between relevant parameters, such as time in hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, and in range, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), average glucose, body mass index (BMI), and length of stay. Percentage of time in hyperglycaemia exhibited significant associations with both percentage of time in hypoglycaemia and percentage of time in range.

Professor Sailesh Sankar from UHCW NHS Trust added: “Innovation is at the heart of providing the best quality care for people with diabetes. Whilst these devices have been used in the outpatient context, we have achieved the widespread use of devices in an inpatient benefiting both patients and staff. We hope others nationally can learn from this project” The monitor works by measuring glucose from interstitial space, rather than from the blood. They are applied to the patient’s skin and measure glucose levels every 15 minutes for up to 14 days. The glucose levels are then easily read by placing an electronic reader or smartphone over the device, which is more convenient and less invasive than finger-prick monitoring.

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