This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.
By Frida Velcani
Dr. Diana Isaacs on improving time in range, making the most of your data, and the barriers facing people with diabetes and their healthcare teams
Dr. Diana Isaacs is a Clinical Pharmacist and Diabetes Care and Education Specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. She works with people with diabetes on a range of issues, including medications, technology, and lifestyle changes. She also educates people every day about the benefits of time in range.
In addition, Dr. Isaacs is the coordinator for the Cleveland Clinic’s continuous glucose monitor (CGM) program. You can find more information on how to choose a CGM here. We continue to think that CGM is of the utmost importance for helping people keep their blood glucose levels in-range, assuming they have access. Dr. Isaacs meets with 200 people every month, through individual appointments, classes, phone follow-ups, and virtual visits. She also works with other healthcare providers, including nurses, nurse practitioners, dietitians, and physicians.
For this article, we spoke with her to better understand her views on the importance of time in range for people with diabetes. Here are her insights on how we can shift away from using A1C and move everyone toward better health.
Dr. Isaacs on Ways to Improve Time in Range, Setting Target Goals, and Celebrating the “Wins”
We asked Dr. Isaacs to pinpoint the most important things that people can do to improve their time in range. “Work with your diabetes care and education specialist and healthcare team to interpret CGM data, understand patterns, and optimize medication doses,” she said. When reviewing data, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and focus on the successes. Repeat what worked well on the days when your time in range was the highest. Figure out what is causing the lows (which often lead to rebound highs) and work to prevent them.
Dr. Isaacs wants people to know that having high glucose variability is completely normal. Many people have the misconception that they should be spending 100% time in range. In reality, time-in-range goals are different for each individual depending on factors such as medication, age, and type of diabetes. Experts recommend that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes aim to spend at least 70% of the day within 70 to 180 mg/dl, less than 4% of the day below 70 mg/dl, and less than 25% above 180 mg/dl. However, experts emphasize that even a 5% change in time in range – for example, going from 60% to 65% – is meaningful, as that translates to one more hour per day spent in-range.
“I’ve seen everything from 0% to 100% time in range,” she said. “There are differences when comparing someone who is new to our clinic compared to someone working with us for a year. It’s so individualized, and people have different challenges. The goal is to improve your personal time in range, and any increase in time in range is a win.”
Measuring Time in Range using Blood Glucose Meters, CGM, and Professional CGM
If you are using a blood glucose meter (BGM) or CGM, talk with your healthcare team about your glucose targets. The data will be more meaningful if you are working toward a specific goal.
For BGM users, paired testing can help you see the direct impact of food on your blood glucose – all you have to do is check your glucose before a meal and again two hours after the meal. To check that your basal insulin is working well, check your glucose levels before bed and first thing in the morning.
At the Cleveland Clinic, people are required to attend a two-part shared appointment to get access to professional CGM. The classes are usually two diabetes care and education specialists (pharmacist and dietitian or nurse) and 4-6 people with diabetes.
In part one, you go over glucose targets, time in range, and how to treat high and low blood sugars. In part two, you download the data and review it with your diabetes care and education specialists. You discuss what it means, find patterns, and make medication adjustments as needed. This class is offered five times per month. Dr. Isaacs says that this program has helped many people improve their A1C (an average 0.8% reduction) and diabetes self-management.
How can we make time in range accessible to people with diabetes and their healthcare teams?
Dr. Isaacs believes that everyone should have access to affordable medications, affordable technology, and a great support system. She says, “I’ve seen so much rationing of insulin and medications, especially in the Medicare and uninsured populations.” There are many people that have diabetes and haven’t connected with their healthcare team in years. We need to do a better job to help these people.
According to Dr. Isaacs, the average healthcare professional is not prepared to talk about time in range. A1C has been and continues to be widely used by most healthcare teams. While she is excited about the growing use of CGM, there are “still some hurdles to get all practices up to speed with how to download the devices and interpret the data.”
Her advice is to tackle these barriers from multiple angles:
- In research, we need to make sure that time in range is an outcome in all clinical trials that measure glycemic management, so that we can directly measure the effect of time in range on clinical outcomes.
- We need targeted education for busy healthcare professionals, including podcasts, webinars, and continuing education.
- We need targeted education for people with diabetes who are often the ones bringing information to their healthcare team.
- In practice, healthcare professionals should discuss time in range with every person with diabetes that is using CGM.
- People with diabetes using CGM should be encouraged to bring their reports to their healthcare provider and discuss time in range.
- Instead of only marketing CGM as a convenient way to reduce finger sticks (which is true), the real benefit is that it lets the person with diabetes be the driver, and time in range is their roadmap.
Dr. Isaacs recently spoke on a panel at the ADA post-graduate sessions about the power of time in range and CGM for all people with diabetes. She was joined by diaTribe’s medical advisory board member, Dr. Irl Hirsch, our editor-in-chief, Kelly Close, and Jane Kadohiro as the moderator, who herself has had diabetes for over 50 years. If you or your healthcare provider are interested in learning more about time in range and downloading CGM data, you can make an account and watch the session here!