EMTs Learn Not All Lows are The Same

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Too often, EMTs and other first responders fail to recognize that not all bouts of hypoglycemia are the same. Sometimes, that means they fail to address a relatively mild low that could be treated at the scene, and instead opt for hospitalization for people with diabetes. Such a decision can lead to increased risks of complications and higher healthcare costs.

Some health care systems are taking steps to better equip EMTs to recognize and treat the varying degrees of hypoglycemia in emergency situations, according to a recent Medscape report. In a new UK training program, 79 emergency field personnel in the West Hampshire region were trained to triage cases of hypoglycemia in an effort to divert patients from unnecessary emergency hospitalization.

Emily Perry, a diabetes specialist nurse in the West Hampshire community, says the protocol leads to better health outcomes and controls costs for ambulance calls and emergency physician treatment. Instead of choosing hospitalization, responders are trained in some cases to treat a low at the scene and then make follow-up referrals to a community diabetes team. The community diabetes team then schedules appointments with care providers and follows up with patients to make sure appointments are kept and treatment regimens are followed.

Initial results show this could be a win-win scenario for both health care systems and people with diabetes. Six months after the new protocols were put in place, the percentage of hypoglycemic episodes that required hospitalization dropped from 40% to 12% in the area. There also was hope that the program might soon cut the “recidivism” rate of those who suffered from emergency-level hypoglycemic episodes in the area.

The results of this pilot program were presented at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference in March 2015.

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Jim Cahill is a former staff writer for Insulin Nation and a former editor of Type 2 nation.

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