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The Sepsis Crisis and What it Takes to Survive

Imagine losing your home, your job, parts of your body or even your life due to an illness that could have been prevented. In too many cases, that’s the result of sepsis.

Not only does sepsis kill 5.3 million people a year across the globe, it’s the leading cause of hospital deaths in the U.S. In fact, while 10% of American hospital patients acquire sepsis, about half of them will die in the hospital. This also costs our country more than $20 billion annually and it is the highest cost hospital discharge for Medicare patients.

Even when patients survive sepsis, the impact of the illness can have detrimental effects on their everyday life. Take Rosie Bartel, who acquired Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) after having a routine knee replacement surgery. Despite efforts to treat it, she ended up acquiring sepsis with a 30% chance of survival. Fortunately Rosie survived, but she has lost her job, her leg and her independence, among other devastations.

Too often sepsis starts with an infection that is acquired in the hospital, like MRSA. While advances in medicine have brought lifesaving care to patients in need, they also come with a risk of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) that can lead to illness, death, prolonged lengths of stay, and additional diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that generate added costs.

But there are practical steps healthcare providers can take to prevent HAIs, recognize the signs and symptoms of infections sooner, and treat cases as quickly as possible.

In fact, when a group of 350 hospitals got together in 2008 to ramp up quality improvement, including patient safety efforts around HAIs, they found success. By sharing their data transparently, they saw that sepsis was on the top of the list for patient mortality in excess of expected. To tackle the problem, they set up specific initiatives around sepsis, starting with implementing practices that the organizations performing the best already had in place to accelerate change.

Initiatives included techniques for:

  • Early detection in the emergency department;
  • Early measurement of serum lactate levels;
  • Prompt initiation of antibiotics after blood cultures; and
  • Aggressive fluid resuscitation.

As a result of these interventions, absolute sepsis mortality rates among these hospitals dropped by 18%. Now they do as much as 10% better in the area of mortality than other hospitals, not to mention they’ve saved nearly $18 billion overall.

That’s the power of collaboration across providers to drive change. When hospitals come together to measure and compare their performance, they can use data to solve significant problems. It’s about testing ideas and sharing what works, building bridges of knowledge and improvement across the healthcare system.

QUEST 2020 hospitals are continuing the legacy of these hospitals, working together each day to improve prevention and treatment, patient safety, the patient and family experience, community health and well-being, care coordination and costs.

Not everyone likes change, but when it comes to sepsis, it’s essential. To learn more about the steps you can take to prevent the devastating effects of sepsis, listen to our webinar and hear from sepsis survivor Rosie Bartel.

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