A Need for Speed

June 1, 2017    |   By: Alex Christgen, BS, CPPS, CPHQ

By: Lynnette Torres, Quality Improvement Manager for Memorial Hospital of Carbondale

Sepsis – a dreaded word for patients, families and health care providers alike. Sepsis is an infection caused by microorganisms or germs (usually bacteria) invading the body. It can be limited to a particular body region or be widespread in the bloodstream.

Addressing the Challenge
In addition to outcomes, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality lists sepsis as the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals, costing more than $24 billion in 2013 increasing on average annually by 11.9%. It has been estimated that if the U.S. as a whole achieved earlier sepsis identification and evidenced based treatment, there would be 92,000 fewer deaths annually, 1.25 million fewer hospital days annually, and reductions in hospital expenditures of over $1.5 billion.2 Research has shown that mortality from sepsis increases 7% every hour that treatment is delayed. As many as 80% of sepsis deaths could be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment.3 Understanding this severity, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, Illinois, began addressing the sepsis
challenge several years before it became a focus for the Centers for Medicare Services (CMS). A multi-disciplinary improvement team began studying sepsis, and realized how much more difficult and unique it is to meet all the requirements than the previously required core measures from CMS.

Making it Easier
The team began working on revising all order sets that are used for patients who may be septic, including the required measures of the Sepsis Bundle: blood cultures, lactic acid, antibiotics, fluid resuscitation, and vasopressors. A Kaizen project focused on the work flow for septic patients as well as components of the evidenced-based sepsis care bundle. Revised sepsis order sets for patients in triage, the ED and inpatient nursing units now include the required measures. These changes make it easier to ensure the proper care is provided in a timely manner. All nursing staff, hospitalists and ED physicians were educated on the sepsis requirements and new order sets. One-on-one education was provided when necessary. “Cheat sheets” and guides for sepsis care were created for physicians and nursing staff. The sepsis care path was laminated and placed on computers as a visual reminder. A checklist was created for nurses and physicians in the ED; these checklists double as a hand-off tool to communicate the continuum of care between providers.

Memorial has concurrent and retrospective nurse abstractors in the Quality Department. The concurrent abstractor reviews the patients who meet sepsis criteria daily, along with tracking use of the sepsis order sets.  Order set compliance data is shared with the providers.

“There are approximately 750,000 new sepsis cases each year in the US, with at least 210,000 fatalities. As medicine becomes more aggressive, with invasive procedures and immunosuppression, the incidence of sepsis is likely to increase even more. Reducing mortality due to severe sepsis requires an organized process that guarantees the early recognition of sepsis along with the uniform and consistent application of evidence-based practices.”

Moving Forward
The team continues to meet and seek ways to simplify the order sets to increase compliance. One of the challenges is missing the required lactic acid timeframe for admitted patients who have the first blood drawn in the ED but are not in their inpatient room when the Lab phlebotomists go to draw for the second order. The phlebotomists now place a sign above the bed indicating that they have been there, asking nurses to please contact the Lab so the second draw may be done in a timely manner.

The Results
Since the sepsis core measure is “all or nothing” for compliance, it is a challenge. However, the results at Memorial Hospital are consistently improving. Use of the revised sepsis order sets started in the low teens and has increased to about 65%. Total compliance with the Sepsis Bundle has increased to the mid-50’s. The team continues to meet every other week and gather input from the ED physicians and hospitalists to address the challenges, one of which is early recognition of sepsis so the timeframes can be met.

For More Information
Lynnette Torres is the Quality Improvement Manager for Memorial Hospital of Carbondale. For more information, including the tools used by Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, contact Lynette at 618-549-0721 Ext. 65472 or 618-684-3156 Ext. 55610. Memorial Hospital of Carbondale is a 140-bed tertiary care hospital, serving as the flagship hospital for Southern Illinois Healthcare and regional center for the 16-county southern Illinois region.

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