Electronic surveillance helps Alabama hospital reduce sepsis deaths

A Huntsville, Alabama, hospital was able to reduce sepsis-related deaths by 53 percent through a program focused on staff education and an electronic surveillance system, according to research published at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The effort included creating discrete data elements in the electronic health record to achieve high sensitivity and specificity for automated sepsis screening. A clinical decision support system then trolled the records for signs of sepsis and alerted nurses either through mobile devices or their desktop computers.

Huntsville Hospital devoted two floors--two respiratory units and one general medicine unit comprising 58 beds--to the study, which compared the results to those of a control period.

It involved establishing and training staff on nursing protocols and the electronic system. The alerting system assessed vital signs, medications, lab values and other information in its search for signs of the deadly infection.

In addition to the decreased mortality rate, the 30-day readmission rate dropped from 19.08 percent during the control period to 13.21 percent. No significant change was found in length of stay.

An international task force recently updated the definition of sepsis in hopes of better tackling the medical condition.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University developed an algorithm that weighs 27 factors in an early-warning system for septic shock, while Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center reduced sepsis mortality by more than 75 percent through better clinician education and setting a low threshold for starting treatment.

To learn more:
- here's the research

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