World Sepsis Day offers time to reflect on progress

September 13, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Approximately a 4-minute read.

Key takeaways:

  • Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths and readmissions across the country, and at U-M Health.
  • Sepsis is a medical emergency. Early recognition and intervention are needed to save lives.
  • Important work is being done at U-M Health to increase awareness and reduce mortality from sepsis.

Today is World Sepsis Day. The Global Sepsis Alliance behind the initiative says it is a day to focus on increasing awareness of the number one preventable cause of death worldwide. It’s also a day to show support for the millions of people who have lost loved ones to sepsis, and the many sepsis survivors who live with long-term consequences from the condition.

At Michigan Medicine, today is also a day to acknowledge and applaud important work being done to increase awareness, early recognition and fast intervention to spot and stop sepsis quickly.

Sepsis at Michigan Medicine

Reducing sepsis mortality and readmissions is a key priority for U-M Health. Improving our ability to recognize and treat sepsis quickly is one of the Safety and Quality initiatives within the organization’s BASE priority structure.

A new sepsis team in the Quality Department at U-M Health is working with front line teams in the adult and pediatric inpatient and emergency services areas. The team’s focus is on providing tools, education and real-time coaching for faculty and staff.

SEP-1 compliance in the Adult Hospitals has been steadily increasing since May of this year.

Every care team member is encouraged to learn the signs of sepsis and to ask, “Could this be sepsis?” even when the signs may not be clear.

Promising progress

The sepsis team, assembled this spring, consists of a medical director, a sepsis process lead and three sepsis coordinators positioned across the main medical campus. Physician leads in both the adult and pediatric hospitals, and the Quality and Safety program managers in both areas, also help guide and support the work of the team.

Data is clear on the impact of SEP-1 bundle compliance on reducing sepsis mortality.

“Our ultimate goal is to decrease mortality rates, saving patients’ lives through early recognition and treatment of sepsis,” said Tami Garcia, M.S.N., R.N., sepsis process lead.

“As a team, we have developed interventions and goals based on information provided by our front line staff and the vast amount of data we have surrounding sepsis,” she said. 

“Our goal for these first few months is to make sure people know we exist as a resource,” said Jessie E. King, M.D., Ph.D., medical director for sepsis initiatives and assistant professor within the Division of Hospital Medicine. “We’ve been reaching out to teams to offer kudos for managing sepsis well and introducing ourselves to those who are caring for septic patients and could use additional support.”

Although it’s too early to assess the impact of the collaborative work being done by the sepsis team and patient care teams, current data indicates that things are moving in a very positive direction.

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen a tremendous improvement in our SEP-1 bundle compliance,” said Dan Katschor, M.S.N, R.N., senior clinical information analyst for the Quality Department.

The SEP-1 bundle is a series of time-sensitive steps that must be initiated within the first few hours after the onset of sepsis symptoms or suspected sepsis.

“Our average compliance was 37.3% from August 2021 through April 2022. In May of this year, our compliance was 54.1%, followed by 61.8% in June, and 70.4% in July. This is our highest monthly compliance rate dating back to January of 2018,” Katschor said.

“Through my manual abstraction of SEP-1 cases the last few months, I have found that sepsis documentation is more intentional, clear and concise,” he added. “The work of the sepsis team, and the growing emphasis on sepsis by our institution, appears to be helping us work toward our ultimate goal of providing the best possible care for our sepsis patient population.”

“A large amount of work was done before we formed as a team,” said Garcia. “We are grateful to everyone who worked so hard to create the foundation we now have to build upon.” 

Continued vigilance and lots of work ahead

King and Garcia report that the sepsis team and its efforts have been well received by front line caregivers. Growing awareness, collaboration and teamwork all appear to be resulting in process improvements that the team hopes will lead to reduced mortality and improved patient outcomes.

This month, which is Sepsis Awareness Month, the team is working to share its message broadly: Sepsis is a medical emergency. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of sepsis early and reacting quickly with appropriate fluid and antibiotic treatments is essential to reducing patient harm and preventable deaths.

“Sepsis can be subtle and sneak up on you,” said King. “Look for it. In any situation where the diagnosis is not 100% confirmed, add sepsis to your differential.

“If you don’t think of it, you’ll miss it and that is when our patients are affected,” she said.

Learn even more about sepsis awareness efforts on a recent episode of The Wrap employee podcast below!