The danger sepsis poses when left undetected is well documented. We know how crucial early identification and treatment are in improving survival rates and the impact they can have on patient outcomes.
The facts speak for themselves as to the seriousness of the condition.
The CDC says over 1.7 million people are diagnosed with sepsis each year in the United States, and up to 350,000 adults die from the disease. That’s more than those who die from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and opioid overdoses combined. One in three people who die in a hospital had sepsis during hospitalization; 50 percent of survivors have long-term physical or psychological effects.
There are financial consequences in addition to the human toll. Acute sepsis hospitalization and skilled nursing care costs run as high as $62 billion annually. The average cost per hospital stay for sepsis is double the average across all other conditions. Sepsis is also the leading cause of hospital readmissions, costing more than $3.5 billion annually.
Knowledge of the condition and its severity is not enough, however. Without a better understanding of sepsis, from identification and treatment to quality metrics, it’s hard to enact changes that will improve patient outcomes and clinician performance.
5 Ways to Make an Impact on Sepsis Performance, Patient Performance, and Clinical Performance
Dr. Ryan Curfiss, a hospital medicine medical director with SCP Health, offers these five practical steps to positively change sepsis survival rates.
1. Look at the Numbers
Get everyone on board by looking at the numbers, Dr. Curfiss says. That includes nationwide statistics and individual facility data.
Nationwide statistics – Review medical journals to find general statistics illustrating mortality rates associated with severe sepsis and septic shock. Seeing the high rates, even at top-notch institutions, helps underline the importance of paying close attention.
Individual facility data – Looking at your facility’s numbers versus others in your system, region, or nationally helps frame clinical performance. Identifying areas where you are doing well and where there is room for improvement motivates clinicians to help patients and boost metrics.
2. Deepen Your Understanding
Numbers and statistics don’t always accurately reflect the quality of care delivered. Medical directors should work with clinicians to help them understand how to calculate mortality rates, including those associated with sepsis and septic shock.
Also, understand how CMS and other groups define sepsis and septic shock. Doing this helps align documentation and actions, so the numbers tell the whole story.
3. Have a Problem-Solver Mindset
Dr. Curfiss advises clinicians to approach sepsis with a problem-solver mindset. Realistically, what can you do differently that will make an impact? Break down what you can change system-wide, hospital-wide, and at the individual clinician level.
Also, always include factors outside your control, such as what happens before patients get to the hospital, the patient’s medical history, social determinants of health, and other considerations. Then, find what you can control because that is what you can change.
4. Take a Holistic View
While it’s essential to look at individual cases, that’s not where the biggest impact occurs. Process improvement looks at the entire approach, not just single outcomes. Identify patterns and trends and create targeted plans to address the issues you uncover.
5. Implement Continuous Check-Ins
Regular meetings are necessary to improve patient outcomes and clinical performance. That includes weekly mortality meetings, which you can use for individual, case-by-case feedback to keep a pulse on emerging patterns, trends, and early indicators.
Dr. Curfiss also recommends monthly meetings where the clinical team looks at mortality rates associated with sepsis and septic shock as a whole, comparing them to other facilities. Make changes when needed and celebrate successes when warranted.
Clinicians can find additional help in treating sepsis effectively from the following resources.
The international Surviving Sepsis Campaign, a joint initiative of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine, has compiled a set of consensus guidelines summarizing sepsis and septic shock treatment best practices based on medical literature. Other health care facilities can use the guidelines to set up their programs.
Sepsis Alliance is the leading sepsis non-profit organization in the U.S., working in all 50 states to save lives and reduce suffering by improving sepsis awareness and care.
The CDC has a section dedicated to sepsis education, which clinicians can use to inform patients and family members. It also contains a list of technical resources and guidelines covering surveillance and epidemiology, prevention, and treatment.
Wolters Kluwer, a global provider of professional information, software solutions, and services for clinicians, has a sepsis resource center covering topics related to sepsis detection, treatment, and potential causes.
Combating sepsis has long been an unspoken issue in health care, claiming lives and escalating expenses. Even though sepsis care treatment has advanced in recent years, sepsis remains a leading cause of inpatient death. Given the COVID-19 pandemic’s decline, now is the perfect time for hospitals to refocus attention on sepsis identification and treatment to improve patient outcomes and clinical performance.