COVID-19 Drives Innovations in Diabetes Treatment and Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has jumpstarted innovation in healthcare delivery and allowed for real-world testing of diabetes care models in unprecedented ways, according to a manuscript published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

For diabetes, which affects half a billion people worldwide, innovation has long been overdue. Currently, less than 50% of people with diabetes meet glycemic targets, which minimize the risk of complications. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to rapidly implement and test models of diabetes care that were not possible before. These innovative models like telehealth have the potential to improve medical outcomes and the patient experience beyond the pandemic.

“We need to change the way we provide care, considering that outcomes of people with diabetes have not improved over the last decade,” says task force chair Robert A. Gabbay, MD, PhD, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association in Arlington Va., and formerly chief medical officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Mass. “Given the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and diabetes, adoption of these innovations has accelerated in the hopes of creating a ‘new normal’ and improvements in the care we provide for people with diabetes.”

In 2018, the Endocrine Society convened a task force to examine and promote innovative models of care in diabetes. In this perspective, the members of the task force review several models of care including telemedicine, eConsultations and Project Echo – a global tele-mentoring program. They also cover team-based care, pharmacist-led care, and the transition from pediatric to adult care.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with an unexpected chance at truly changing the way endocrinology and diabetes care is delivered far into the future,” says task force member and lead author Shivani Agarwal, MD, MPH, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y. “This manuscript highlights recent strides and reminds us of remaining challenges we must address to sustain innovation.”

The task force discusses the challenges to widespread adoption of these new models of care like lack of insurance coverage, technology integration and workforce shortages, and provides potential solutions to foster innovation and create sustainability.

“Embracing new ways of delivering care is going to be important for taking care of large populations of people with complex conditions like diabetes,” says Michelle Griffith, MD, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “When we use these innovative models appropriately, we can often give the right care for a given situation more efficiently.”

Other members of the task force include: Elizabeth J. Murphy of the University of California in San Francisco in San Francisco, Calif.; M. Carol Greenlee of Western Slope Endocrinology in Grand Junction, Colo.; and Jeffrey Boord of the Parkview Health System in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The manuscript received funding from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

The manuscript, “Innovations in Diabetes Care for a Better ‘New Normal’ Beyond COVID-19,” was published online, ahead of print.

Read more about the task force’s efforts in the November issue of Endocrine News.

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