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blood glucose, diabetes, diabetes management, hospital-acquired hypoglycemia, hypoglycemia, insulin, insulin administration, mealtime



  1. Hughes, Lucille DNP, MSN/Ed, CDCES, BC-ADM, FADCES
  2. Caragher, Maura BSN, CDCES


Background: Hospitalized patients who have diabetes often experience hospital-acquired hypoglycemia, a potentially serious adverse event; as a result, management of this condition has become an important quality of care indicator in the inpatient environment. A growing body of research and evidence-based clinical guidelines support proper timing of point of care (POC) blood glucose (BG) measurements, mealtime insulin administration, and meal delivery to reduce the incidence of both hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic events. Monitoring and improving the timing of these three patient care interventions are recognized as a crucial step in the safe and effective care of patients with diabetes.


Purpose: The objective of the QI project was to improve the timing of mealtime insulin administration related to bedside BG monitoring and meal delivery for patients with diabetes who receive mealtime insulin; a secondary goal was to decrease the number of episodes of recurrent hypoglycemia. The overall strategy was to change staff members' approach to mealtime insulin management from a series of individual tasks to a process-oriented collaborative approach.


Methods: Nurses on the medical-surgical unit at one hospital within a large health system formed a QI team with staff members in information technology and food and nutrition services. The team implemented an eight-week QI pilot project (July 3 to August 26, 2017) using a multidisciplinary approach to coordinate between POC BG measurement, mealtime insulin administration, and meal delivery.


Results: More than two years after the hospital-wide rollout of the practice change, follow-up analysis has shown that, on both noncritical and critical care units, recurrent hypoglycemia has decreased. For example, comparing data obtained in a six-month period before the pilot project (November 2016 through April 2017) with the same six-month period in 2018 and 2019, more than a year after the pilot project, the percentage of patient stays (admissions) on noncritical care units in which there was a recurrence of hypoglycemia fell from 41.8% (of 1,162 total hospital admissions) to 35.1% (of 792 total hospital admissions); similarly, the percentage of patient stays on critical care units in which recurrent hypoglycemia occurred decreased from 36.8% to 22.8%.


Conclusions: Findings suggest that ensuring a consistent 30-minute window between POC BG measurement and meal delivery enabled nursing staff to perform timely POC BG measurements and administer a more optimal mealtime insulin dose. Increasing interdisciplinary communication, collaboration, and awareness of best practice guidelines relating to proper mealtime insulin administration resulted in a sustained improvement in timing between POC BG measurements and mealtime insulin administration and between mealtime insulin administration and meal delivery.