PEORIA — UnityPoint Health is getting credit for being the first health care system in downstate Illinois to offer an implanted glucose monitor for diabetics, but it was actually the patient, Hollie Stoneburner of Peoria, who made it happen.
“Thank you, Hollie, for forcing me to grow,” said Anne Webster, an advanced practice nurse with UnityPoint Health - Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, who inserted the monitor into Stoneburner’s upper arm at the end of May. “There are a lot of patients I have to push to use technology, but I also have some that teach me a lot, and that’s great.”
Stoneburner, 36, learned about the Eversense CGM continuous glucose monitoring system online.
“Once you start Googling stuff everything pops up, and the Evensense popped up and it looked neat,” said Stoneburner, who liked the fact the clunkiest part of the device is easily removed. The Eversense smart transmitter is secured over the implanted monitor with special two-sided tape. Traditional glucose monitors include needles which are inserted into the skin, making insertion and removal more complicated.
“I’m always walking into things, and I could just see myself walking into stuff and pulling it out,” said Stoneburner. “With this one you just stick it back on and walk away.”
Though Stoneburner was sold on the device, her health care provider was a harder sell. As the first implantable glucose meter on the market, the Eversense was something Webster hadn’t tried out yet.
“I told her, let’s think about this because I don’t like the idea of implanting every three months,” said Webster. “If it was six months, I’d be better about it.”
The sensor currently has FDA approval to be in the arm for three months, a precaution designed to minimize the chance of infection, Webster explained. Every three months the sensor must be removed and a new one inserted in the opposite arm. In Europe, the sensor is currently being used for six -month stretches, which will probably happen in the U.S. eventually, said Webster.
Another reservation Webster had was the fact that she usually recommends type 1 diabetics like Stoneburner get a glucose meter that works in tandem with an insulin pump. Type 1 diabetics tend to have glucose levels that fluctuate greatly over the course of the day, and a pump automatically injects insulin as needed. But Stoneburner, who was only diagnosed a year ago, wasn’t ready to wear an insulin pump.
Webster promised to do some research on the Eversense CGM and let Stoneburner know. Webster always tries to give patients what they want because they are the ones who ultimately have to manage the disease. Then, coincidentally, a drug rep from Eversense visited Webster’s office.
“I actually really liked the device after I learned more, so I called Hollie and said ‘OK, I’ll do it for you.’”
The insertion procedure took less than a half hour.
“She was awake. We just lidocained the area, and we did it right in the office. It’s very minimally invasive. It’s similar to when they used to use implantable birth control,” said Webster. The sensor was paired with the transmitter and soon Stoneburner was getting information sent every five minutes to a special app downloaded onto her smartphone. If blood sugar levels fall out of safe parameters, alerts are sent to Stoneburner’s phone and the sensor vibrates.
“It woke me up for a high the other night,” said Stoneburner.
Since the device monitors blood sugar levels 24/7, it creates a wealth of information that helps Webster create a more precise treatment plan. She can download weeks of information during office visits. And another nice thing about the Eversense system is that it’s very accurate, said Webster.
“It gives you a ton of information,” she said while looking at a series of graphs on her office computer. “It’s showing me that Holly’s diabetes is under control.”
Since Stoneburner doesn’t have an insulin pump, she has to administer shots herself. She carries insulin pens wherever she goes in a small bag specially designed for diabetics.
News has gotten out about the Eversense CGM being available in Peoria, and Webster has fielded a few calls from people interested in trying the system. She expects it to be very popular once it’s approved for six month implantation.
“That’s gonna be huge,” she said. “And if it was once a year, can you imagine?”
The device is not going to be right for everyone, but it is another tool in a growing arsenal of ingenious devices helping diabetics live better lives. It’s great to have lots of options available, because every diabetic is unique, said Webster.
“They are like snowflakes,” she said. “I have to customize for each patient, so it’s whatever works for each person, because this is their life that they are living. And I want them to have as normal a life as they can, and have the normal length of life.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.