Blog: Supporting high-risk Covid-19 patients with diabetes

Published: 21 Jul 2020

Author: Tim Robbins
Blog: Supporting high-risk Covid-19 patients with diabetes

People with diabetes have an increased risk of both Covid-19 infection and poor outcomes following Covid-19 infection. This has resulted in a large proportion of the people admitted to hospital for Covid-19 having a co-existing diagnosis of diabetes.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated what could be described as a ‘new dawn’ for remote and digital healthcare provision." - Tim Robbins, Fellow

Care and support for these patients should not stop following discharge from hospital: following discharge, they will be at increased risk of both physical health problems (such as difficult blood sugar control) and psychological problems (such as anxiety and depression).

I have been awarded a Covid-19 Action Fund grant to further my work to support people with diabetes of all types, following discharge from hospital with Covid-19, focusing particularly on hard to reach populations. The project will be initiated at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust where I work, a large hospital in the West Midlands that provides care to a truly diverse population.

There have been significant numbers of people with diabetes admitted to hospital with Covid-19. Providing them with the best quality support following discharge will enable them to return to good health as soon as possible. Reducing problems around blood sugar control and psychological problems will also reduce the risks of future complications, which are both unpleasant for patients and costly to healthcare services. The focus on hard-to-reach and high-risk populations will help work towards wider aims of reducing health inequalities, particularly around the implementation of digital technologies. 

My funding will be used to support high risk populations with diabetes following their discharge from hospital with a diagnosis of diabetes. A lot of research currently has focused on treatment of Covid-19 during the acute phase, typically in hospital. I am hoping that this funding will enable the NHS Trust where I work to provide support to patients following diagnosis and recovery from the acute effects of Covid-19.

We will use digital tools and remote consultations to follow up these patient groups, to ensure that patients are supported and problems with both physical psychological health are addressed early. We will work with people with diabetes to ensure that the project truly meets their needs, based on their lived experiences with diabetes.

The project will directly support people with diabetes who have been discharged from hospital with a diagnosis of Covid-19 in the Coventry and Warwickshire area. The main learnings of this project will be around how digital and virtual tools can be used to support people with chronic diseases following discharge from hospital with an acute illness such as Covid-19, which I hope can be disseminated nationally. 

My Churchill Fellowship has been central to developing key areas of this project. I travelled to the United States in 2017 to explore approaches to digital healthcare and discover how this could be applied in the UK. My main learnings were the need to truly integrate digital healthcare processes within patient pathways; to involve patients directly in the development of digital services; and to engage the wider healthcare workforce in training and development around digital health tools. I hope that both this project, and my wider innovation and research work, truly embrace and embed this learning in practice.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated what could be described as a ‘new dawn’ for remote and digital healthcare provision. These digital and remote consultation tools have been essential for providing care during the peak of the crisis. I hope that through this project we can sustain and embed the beneficial elements of digital health in the long term to support high-risk people with a chronic disease following discharge from hospital.

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