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Continuous Glucose Monitors being used at UMass Memorial to monitor diabetes patients and protect hospital workers from COVID-19

Date Posted: Friday, April 24, 2020

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About one third of hospital patients have diabetes. Furthermore, more than half of people with diabetes who’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently allowed continuous glucose monitors (CGM) to be used in hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The change was made on a temporary basis to help hospital workers monitor diabetes patients while reducing their own exposure to the coronavirus.

Abbott and Dexcom, two major CGM manufacturers, have donated thousands of their CGM products to hospitals throughout the United States following the FDA’s recent decision. Insulin for Life, a not-for-profit which reallocates unused diabetes supplies to those in need, is helping to distribute the devices to areas hit the hardest by COVID-19. 

This week, UMass Memorial began using Freestyle 14-day CGMs to monitor the blood sugar of patients living with diabetes. The devices monitor blood glucose every five minutes and keep track of the results. By utilizing the data produced by the CGMs while patients are hospitalized to receive treatment for COVID-19, the team can deliver better care. It also protects hospital staff from unnecessary exposure to the virus, since the devices can be read from a distance.

David Harlan, MD, Co-Director of the UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence, points out that “people with diabetes are more likely than those without the disease to require hospitalization for a number of issues that more commonly occur, such as infections - or others that can be more severe, like with COVID-19.” He added, “They typically require longer hospital stays than those without diabetes due to the complications that can arise.”

In recent years, the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence has revolutionized blood glucose management for all people admitted to Worcester’s UMass Memorial hospitals, both the University and Memorial campuses. Our inpatient diabetes care team works together with other providers and healthcare teams to make recommendations for blood glucose management for all people living with diabetes during their hospitalization. 

Dr. Harlan added, “The generous support provided by Insulin for Life through their gift of the Abbott Libre™ CGMs allows our team to deliver better care to those we serve, and to protect all of UMass Memorial's invaluable caregivers who every day willingly and courageously place themselves in harm’s way to promote our patients’ recovery.”

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