4 ways to slash inpatient sepsis rates, deaths

An early detection and intervention program implemented at Houston Methodist Hospital has succeeded in significantly reducing inpatient deaths and costs related to sepsis. The program, featured in the November Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, was designed to put nurses on the front lines of identifying signs of the possible blood infection and initiate prompt, evidence-based interventions to diagnose and treat it, according to an announcement.

The interventions included the following components:

  • Organizational commitment and data-based leadership
  • Development and integration of an early sepsis screening tool into the electronic health record
  • Education and training of nurses
  • Twice-daily nurse screenings of patients in targeted units

As a result of these efforts, the percentage of inpatients screened for sepsis rose from 10 percent in 2009 to 33 percent in 2011. Inpatient deaths associated with sepsis also decreased--from 29.7 percent before implementation of the program to 21.1 percent from 2009 to 2014--while hospital costs for Medicare beneficiaries also fell.

Authors of the article attributed the program's success, in part, to its focus on all inpatients, not just those in the intensive care unit. A similar program at New Jersey's Kennedy Health System also took a multilevel, multidepartmental approach that empowered nurses to intervene early, allowing the organization to lower its sepsis rate to 11.9 percent, FierceHealthcare reported previously.

Nationally, sepsis contributes to roughly half of all hospital deaths despite being present in only 1 in 10 patients, FierceHealthcare previously reported. The infection accounts for as many readmissions and deaths as heart attacks and congestive heart failure, both of which are monitored closely under the Affordable Care Act. It also costs twice as much to treat as the other two combined, research has shown.

To learn more:
- read the announcement