Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) used by people with diabetes have been a focus of recent conversations both inside and outside the healthcare space. Superstar Nick Jonas has been raising awareness of this technology through his platforms and in new TV commercials, and companies like Apple are exploring glucose monitoring as an indicator for general health and wellness. All this attention has led to more people with diabetes becoming aware of this life-changing technology, and in turn, heading to their primary care provider to ask for a CGM.
With 34.2 million Americans living with diabetes, nearly every primary care provider is guiding treatment plans for people with type 1, type 2 and even pre-diabetes, but many healthcare providers are still not aware of CGM technology and how it can benefit patients. As healthcare providers, we work to keep pace with the latest treatments, technologies and tools available to be prepared to address patient questions and ultimately improve health outcomes. This is more important now than ever, as we’re starting to see a gap in healthcare provider knowledge and consumer awareness in an era where endless healthcare resources and information is at our patients’ fingertips.
While patients are doing their own research, they still expect us, as their healthcare provider, to be the experts on what tools and treatments we believe will best help them. A recent survey1 of people with insulin-treated diabetes found that patients believe it is the responsibility of their healthcare provider to bring new standards of care to their attention, like CGM systems.
CGM technology is widely considered the standard of care and clinically proven to improve outcomes for people with diabetes taking insulin. For those of us who may not be as familiar with the technology but want to inform future conversations with patients, here are 3 things you need to know about CGM systems:
A CGM uses a small, wearable sensor and transmitter to measure and send real-time glucose values wirelessly to a smart device or receiver every five minutes. It eliminates the need for multiple daily fingersticks used in blood glucose monitoring (BGM).
A BGM shows glucose values at a single moment in time and patients may often miss or forget to take a reading, leaving many unknowns. A CGM connects the dots and provides a complete picture of glucose management, filling in the gaps for both patients and healthcare providers. The data gleaned from CGM technology show trends in glucose levels, the rate of change in readings and even alerts users of dangerously low or high glycemic levels.
These data arm patients with real-time insights to inform short-term actions like taking medication or insulin, and long-term lifestyle adjustments as they can see how their body reacts to certain foods, physical activities or behaviors.
The benefits of CGM systems for people of all ages have been clinically proven, from two years old to Medicare patients. The recent SENSE study has shown the benefits of CGM technology for children ages 2-7 with type 1 diabetes in reducing hypoglycemia and parental burden and fear. The WISDM study of adults ages 60 and older with type 1 diabetes found that CGM systems help to significantly lower A1C, reduce hypoglycemia and increase the amount of time a user spends in target glucose ranges. The technology is truly easy to use for all demographics.
We are also now seeing more evidence of the benefits of CGM for broader populations, including people with type 2 diabetes. Earlier this year the MOBILE study was the first of its kind to affirm that people with type 2 diabetes on basal insulin benefit from the use of CGM technology, with study participants showing significant increases in time in range and decreases in A1C. These outcomes occurred independent of direct provider interventions, so even getting a patient on the device to learn for themselves can be a win.
Not only does CGM technology give the power back to patients by arming them with information to make treatment decisions in real-time, it also provides healthcare providers with the insights and data needed to develop tailored medication and treatment regimens. The reports available to providers help make appointments with patients more efficient as you can quickly see potential issues, leaving more time to get to know the patient and discuss together ways to improve diabetes management and outcomes.
Diabetes patients are making healthcare treatment decisions nearly every minute of every day and are looking for new and better ways to ease the burden of managing their condition. Patients are asking, and it’s up to us as healthcare providers to educate and provide them with the best tools available to manage their diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association, SIGMA (Study of Improved Glucose Monitoring and Assessment) and The Global Movement for Time in Range have great resources available to help you learn more about CGM technology and better understand how it can support your patients.
The demand for CGM technology will only continue to grow, and now is the time for healthcare providers to educate themselves on the proven benefits of the technology.
Aaron King, MD, is a family practitioner and diabetes specialist with Baptist Health System.
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1. Dexcom, U.S. data on file, November 2020