'We know what to do with sepsis': Ohio hospitals renew sepsis mortality reduction efforts

The Ohio Hospital Association is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, and it's doing something a little more involved than chowing on cake and blowing out the candles.

"We gave a lot of thought as to how to acknowledge [our birthday]," says Mike Abrams, president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association, and the organization came up with forming the Institute for Health Innovation.

The new internal organization chose sepsis as one area that Ohio hospitals desperately needed to focus on.

Mr. Abrams called the data on sepsis "staggering," citing numbers indicating there are 38 deaths per day in Ohio alone due to sepsis. On a national level, sepsis kills more than 258,000 Americans annually, according to the CDC. It's the ninth leading cause of disease-related deaths in the U.S.

Beyond the cost to patients' lives, sepsis cases also have a grave effect on hospitals' bottom lines. According to Mr. Abrams, sepsis can cost hospitals anywhere between $22,000 and $57,000 per case.

"It has a tremendous economic impact on healthcare in our country, and has a very real and personal impact on people," Mr. Abrams says. The OHA is focused on reducing hospital sepsis mortality in Ohio by 30 percent.

"Unlike a lot of issues, we know what to do with sepsis," but clinicians struggle with early identification of sepsis and with implementing evidence-based practices, Mr. Abrams says.

"It reminds me of ventilator-associated pneumonia. There was a time when physicians in practice today were training and 10 percent of ventilator patients were going to get pneumonia. But we know the interventions to prevent that, and now hospitals go years without a single case of ventilator-associated pneumonia," he says. "We want to do for sepsis what we did for ventilator-associated pneumonia."

Program details

OHA's sepsis initiative starts off by participating hospitals performing a gap analysis to evaluate their individual performance with early recognition and early intervention and identify opportunities to improve.

"Once we know what they're missing, we'll work with them to form a meaningful hospital-specific action plan," Mr. Abrams explains.

OHA staff, including nurses and physicians, will work with hospital staff and clinicians who lead the focus upon sepsis, he says. Educational sessions will also be done virtually, via teleconference and webinars.

Additionally, OHA has collaborated with James O'Brien, MD, the vice president of quality and patient safety at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus and chair of the board of Sepsis Alliance to serve as the physician advisor of the OHA Statewide Sepsis Initiative.

So far, 80 hospitals are participating in the two-year program, and Mr. Abrams is hopeful that eventually the majority of the state's more than 200 hospitals will commit to participation in the program.

Participating hospitals need to submit data to get started, and also assign staff to the initiative, which could be reasons for hesitation for some hospital executives. But Mr. Abrams says this generally hasn't been the case so far.

"I get the sense when I talk to administrative leaders that they're already aware this is an area they need to focus on and be curious about," he says. "It's not a difficult thing to convince them of."

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