Improving outcomes: The importance of raising sepsis awareness at Michigan Medicine

September 13, 2018  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Sepsis is the leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals — more people die from sepsis than breast cancer, AIDS and prostate cancer combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.7 million people become septic and about 270,000 people die from sepsis each year in the U.S.

In recognition of September’s designation as “Sepsis Awareness Month,” Michigan Medicine is joining with health care organizations and other groups across the country to help raise awareness of sepsis and encourage early identification and diagnosis.

Early diagnosis is key

Sepsis occurs when an infection someone already has, such as in the skin, lungs, urinary tract or elsewhere, triggers a chain reaction throughout the body and injures other tissues and organs. Without treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Sepsis can be hard to identify, as the symptoms are not always obvious and can be confused as symptoms of other ailments. Some of the most common symptoms of sepsis are listed in the graphic to the right. While this list is not exhaustive, these are the most common symptoms that should be considered when examining patients for sepsis.

People at highest risk of developing sepsis include:

  • Infants and children
  • Elderly
  • Persons with an altered immune system
  • Those recently hospitalized
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • People with liver cirrhosis
  • People with cancer
  • People with kidney disease
  • Persons without a spleen

A sepsis diagnosis can be life-threatening for patients, so diagnosing and treating the condition quickly is vital for survival.

Improving sepsis outcomes at Michigan Medicine

Michigan Medicine recently established the “Improving Sepsis Outcomes at Michigan Medicine” committee to examine how sepsis is diagnosed and treated across the organization. Like many hospitals, there is significant room for improvement in standardizing the care that septic patients receive.

The committee tracks the work of multidisciplinary teams across the institution that are working diligently to implement systemwide changes to help front-line caregivers recognize sepsis and start treatment quickly. These changes include development of a standard workflow for suspected sepsis cases and utilizing features in MiChart to streamline orders and documentation.

A team from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital has also developed a “sepsis response team” that responds when a patient is flagged for a possible sepsis diagnosis so treatment can start immediately. To date, this protocol has been rolled out on all four pediatric general care units in Mott.

Additionally, the Clinical Design & Innovation team from the Quality Department has been working with Adult Emergency Services to develop a “trigger alert” in MiChart that will flag patients who appear to be septic or at risk for developing sepsis. This new process and order set takes into account some of the best practices in sepsis treatment, making it easier and more efficient for providers to make a diagnosis and start treatment rapidly.

As sepsis awareness efforts continue in the months and years ahead, teams across all three segments will continue to work to improve sepsis outcomes for patients at Michigan Medicine.

To learn more about the importance of sepsis awareness and early diagnosis at Michigan Medicine, Mott parent adviser Nikki Schueller and her family were profiled in Children’s Hospitals Today as part of Sepsis Awareness Month.