September is Sepsis Awareness Month: How 7 health systems are participating

Sept. 1 marked the start of Sepsis Awareness Month, which the Sepsis Alliance launched in 2011.

The nonprofit organization holds the campaign annually in September to boost patients' and clinicians' awareness of sepsis, which affects 1.7 million adults annually in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Becker's Hospital Review asked healthcare leaders to share their health system's plans for Sepsis Awareness Month. Read their responses below.

Spectrum Health (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Leslie Jurecko, MD, Vice President of System Quality, Safety and Experience 

"We do a full communication plan for Sepsis Awareness Month that we've built out over the years. For external outreach, we have a few of our physician leaders do interviews on TV to talk about sepsis detection, early treatment and warning signs. We also run a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Last year, the campaign reached over 25,000 people, got 826 likes and was shared 195 times. Our social media team said they rarely see that level of engagement on Facebook posts with organic content like that. This year, we're also doing a Facebook Live conversation where I'll be talking about pediatric sepsis. 

"Internally, we share weekly posts on sepsis awareness on our internal employee page. We'll also post 60-second videos of our leadership discussing sepsis. The one thing we do across the campus is digital signage for Sepsis Awareness Month. We convert a lot of our TVs and other digital screens with awareness messages, which reach a lot of employees. Sepsis is a team sport, and part of that team is the patient and family members. So that's why these campaigns, both internally and externally, are really important."

Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.)
Isabel Friedman, DNP, RN, Director of Clinical Initiatives in the Department of Clinical Transformation

"Sepsis has been a strategic initiative and an area of great importance for Northwell Health since 2008. Sepsis awareness for us is every month. This year, we have aligned our fall Sepsis Learning Collaborative in September to coincide with Sepsis Awareness Month.

"The Learning Collaborative's goal is to gather sepsis teams from every facility across the organization for education and an exchange of ideas and progress. Together, we share the latest evidence-based literature, as well have the teams showcase their successes and learn from our challenges.

"The Northwell Sepsis Taskforce also features a Sepsis Awareness Month banner on the Northwell intranet, reminding staff of the importance of early identification and prompt treatment of sepsis. The individual hospitals hold Sepsis Day/Month celebrations, which are educational, engaging and fun. Some sites hold sepsis fairs with activities and prizes to promote sepsis knowledge and awareness."

UMass Memorial Health Care (Worcester, Mass.)
Eric Alper, MD, Chief Quality Officer/Chief Clinical Informatics Officer

"UMass Memorial Health Care is celebrating its success with sepsis care during the past year and continuing to utilize these interventions across our inpatient areas. Our sepsis bundle initiative focused on identifying and treating sepsis in our emergency departments. A series of alerts were built for providers in our EDs — one for the triage nurse, one for the ED nurse and multiple for the ED physician to provide highly specific recommendations on how to deliver all expected elements of sepsis care in the most timely way. This sepsis bundle initiative has now been rolled out across all five EDs in our system. 

"On the inpatient side, our EHR system, Epic, uses a predictive analytics model for sepsis to alert physicians and nurses about inpatients who may be at risk of developing sepsis. This predictive model has led our providers to take specific actions to address potential sepsis within an hour about 60 percent of the time. As a result of the substantial improvement in sepsis bundle performance at the pilot site, we will implement these alerts during Sepsis Awareness Month throughout the rest of our inpatient settings."

Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.)
Tiffany Johnson, Improvement Advisor 

"Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls tested an early sepsis detection tool to use in our EMR to identify at-risk patients who arrive at our hospital. This model has 80 different weighted variables, such as vital signs and lab results, that provide a patient-specific sepsis predictive score. A score of seven or higher triggers a best practice alert for our nursing staff to begin interventions. This model provides real-time monitoring of the patient's risk by attaching the patient's risk score to the medical record. We also have a checklist for our nursing staff to complete to make sure interventions are completed.

"After implementing these initiatives, about 40 percent of patients with an elevated score were diagnosed with sepsis, and about 50 percent received orders within an hour of the best practices alert. We know that when we can better recognize our patients at risk, we can work faster to treat them and improve their outcomes."

Indiana University Health (Indianapolis)
Lindsay Weaver, MD, Emergency Medicine Physician; Physician Lead of IU Health's Sepsis Steering Committee

"Throughout September, we will be running in situ simulations with a simulated septic patient in emergency departments across the system to help educate local teams on the warning signs, appropriate treatment and possible pitfalls of sepsis care. We are also launching a standardized, systemwide ED sepsis screening and treatment flow-sheet. Recognizing that over 80 percent of sepsis patients present to the ED from the community, our goal is to standardize our approach to ED patients so that 100 percent of patients are screened for sepsis upon arrival. The treatment flow-sheet will encourage communication and early antibiotic delivery, which have been shown to save lives.

"Each IU Health hospital is doing community outreach projects about sepsis, including disseminating flyers to their surrounding community, having discussions with their referring extended-care facilities and even participating in a festival and a parade to bring awareness to our patients and communities. Hospitals are also leading various education events, including lunch-and-learns and friendly competitions."

Baylor Scott & White Health (Dallas)
Andrew Masica, MD, Vice President and Chief Clinical Effectiveness Officer

"Baylor Scott & White Health is attempting to build on progress in early recognition and treatment of sepsis patients in the emergency department by extending quality improvement over the entire episode of care.

"Baylor Scott & White operates sepsis quality improvement under a structured program that centers on alignment and collaboration between facility-level teams and a system core group. That approach has generated positive results. Hospital adherence to the CMS SEP-1 bundle is consistently above 75 percent, and risk-adjusted mortality for patients admitted with sepsis has declined steadily over the past three years. Cultural change emphasizing sepsis as a top-of-mind condition owned by the entire care team has been a key driver of better performance.

"In recognition of value-based care delivery, the next phase of improvement work at Baylor Scott & White has expanded to include additional outcomes such as disposition status (home vs. extended care facility), reduction of readmissions associated with an index hospitalization for sepsis and cost of care. A specific strategy is to integrate other, broader hospital-care improvement initiatives such as ventilator liberation, mobility maintenance, delirium screening and management and transitional care planning directly into the sepsis program."

M Health Fairview (Minneapolis)
Abraham Jacob, MD, Chief Quality Officer 

"At M Health Fairview, our faculty physicians and staff work daily on efforts to recognize sepsis and intervene during the critical window when patients can respond to life-saving treatment. I am proud to see our efforts grow and improve. We are currently underway at rolling out a new process for sepsis recognition across the hospitals in our system with the goal to improve our recognition and treatment of patients with sepsis. This includes both nursing and provider education.

"This summer, we held our first 'Sepsis Summit.' This was an opportunity for stakeholders from around the system to gather and seek insight from each other. It was a chance to determine potential next steps and encourage further discussion about this important high-risk diagnosis."

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