How Avel eCare Celebrates and Carries Forward the Legacy and Innovation of Treating Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic illness that can be extremely disruptive for both the afflicted and their family. These disruptions are only amplified when those suffering from diabetes are young children.

And, while the treatment method has been well-defined and administered in recent history – leading to millions of patients being treated each year – it has not always been this way. Back 100 years ago, the world did not have a treatment for diabetes. That is, until the scientific community experienced a breakthrough.

A pair of German scientists first discovered that the pancreas was where insulin was produced in 1889, but it took 32 years until Canadian surgeon Dr. Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best, were able to successfully extract and refine a dose of insulin ready to use on a human being.

In January of 1922, history was made when Dr. Banting administered the first dose of insulin to Leonard Thompson, a 14-year-old boy who was suffering from severe diabetes in a Toronto hospital. In the century since, the groundbreaking work has continued, leading to millions of lives saved and continued advancements and breakthroughs, including in the tracking and administration of insulin.

The Avel eCare School Health program applauds the efforts of these pioneers and continues to embrace their collective mission of improving the lives of those with Type I or Type II diabetes. Now, thanks to the work of Banting, Best, and so many others, our focus can expand from just trying to keep people with diabetes alive to now maximizing our ability to treat the illness and manage the symptoms so they can live a full life.

In Avel’s case, it is particularly special that the first person to receive a dose of insulin was a child — our School Health program has been designed to help kids aged 3-17 manage their chronic diabetes so they can enjoy a high quality of life. Since our service line began in 2015, we have observed a consistent need among local school staff and administrators who are seeking clinical help for their students who have diabetes.

From counting carbs and monitoring blood sugar, to administering insulin at regular intervals, this process can be overwhelming, both for school staff and the students. The Avel eCare virtual nurses understand this dynamic and can step in to help provide high-quality care. Instead of trying to manage the care of these students on their own, school districts can rely on the remote nurse to supervise local unlicensed assistive personnel and ensure students are receiving appropriate diabetes management.

This work, which has been positively received by students, parents, and school staff, has helped improve the care of children, reduce the burden and stress on schools, and grant peace of mind to parents that their children (and their caregivers) have access to a licensed nurse throughout the entire school day. It represents a true partnership – between the schools, parents, and virtual nurse – and leads to positive outcomes for everyone involved.

This successful model has been used to help numerous students and school districts, and has led to Avel eCare partnering with Avera Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and The Leona M. And Harry B. Charitable Trust to conduct a study —the T1D Demonstration Project. This new study will examine how high-quality telemedicine can influence diabetes care, help keep students in school, minimize the travel burden on parents, and decrease healthcare costs for families.

We have started inviting schools and families of children with Type I or Type II diabetes to participate in our project. Our goal is to eventually enroll 100 students in the study so that we can interpret the results and use the findings to help students manage their chronic conditions and ensure a high quality of life for children living with diabetes.

Ultimately, this project is a direct reflection of the high-quality care virtual nurses can provide and how telemedicine can close access gaps in school to ensure every student receives high-quality care when and where it is needed.

Sheila Freed, RN is the Director of the School Health program for Avel eCare, a joint commission accredited virtual health care organization based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Currently, Freed’s team of school nurses serves more than 110 schools in Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota and ensures students and school staff have access to licensed school nurse coverage for the entire school day. Prior to her role at Avel, Freed served in a variety of nursing roles in home health, cardiac and pulmonary rehab, orthopedics and neurology. She received her BSN from the University of Wyoming and is a Johnson and Johnson School Health leadership fellow.

 T1D Demonstration Project: To read more about the T1D Demonstration Project and Avel’s role in helping students manage their chronic diabetes, click HERE.