Outsmarting Sepsis: Enhancing Detection, Treatment, and Survivor Care Through Technology

Sepsis is a global health crisis responsible for nearly 20 percent of all deaths worldwide. A life-threatening response to infection can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, or death if not recognized early and managed promptly. Beyond the immediate crisis, sepsis survivors often endure a long recovery road, with up to 60 percent grappling with ongoing physical, mental, and emotional challenges post-discharge. 

Moreover, sepsis causes over a quarter of a million deaths in America and costs the U.S. health system $38 billion annually, according to recent figures. Indeed, sepsis puts tremendous strain on hospitals’ emergency departments (ED), placing high demands on medical staff and resources. Finding effective ways to streamline the management of sepsis within an ED is crucial to alleviate the burden and ensure timely care for patients in need.

Sepsis Survivor Week, which is observed annually during the second week of February, represents a time to acknowledge the severity of sepsis and the significant progress made in managing it, thanks partly to technological advancements. Data integration and near-real-time analytics have been game changers in enhancing early detection and timely treatment. Technology can also help expand the scope of efforts to improve sepsis survivor care, beginning with post-discharge patient education and patient engagement initiatives.

Advanced Data and Analytics Deliver the Need for Speed

In the fight against sepsis, rapid detection and treatment are vital. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) asserts that every hour of delayed antibiotic administration increases the risk of death from septic shock by 7.6 percent. Every hour treatment is delayed, the less effective it becomes.

Modern data platforms integrate critical patient data such as vital signs and laboratory results with patients’ electronic health records, creating a comprehensive data view. This integration empowers medical teams to swiftly detect the onset of sepsis, expediting treatment.

Other data analytics applications, including the Sepsis Analytics Accelerator (SAA), build on this capability by offering an in-workstation, at-a-glance view of individual and collective patient data over time. The application supports workstation alerts when care varies from best practice guidelines and tracks correlations between care received and patient outcomes. SAA reports also provide health systems with a view of care variance and patient outcomes, which helps physicians trust the data and adhere to government guidelines.

The integrated data platform and analytics applications have significantly improved sepsis outcomes. For instance, a sepsis improvement team at Thibodaux Regional Health System leveraged these tools to substantially reduce their sepsis mortality rates by 36.4 percent, maintaining this improvement over three years. A team at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center (New Hanover) also implemented changes based on insights from the SAA, achieving a 40.1 percent decrease in sepsis and septic shock mortality rates by addressing unwarranted care variation.

Improving Sepsis Survivor Care

While health systems have made great strides in initial sepsis management, about 40 percent of sepsis survivors face the risk of readmission. Kathleen Merkley, Senior Vice President of Professional Services, advocates for comprehensive care transition processes to lower this risk. This approach includes scheduling follow-up appointments and educating patients and families on recognizing signs of infection recurrence. 

Patient engagement tools like Twistle by Health CatalystTM can enhance sepsis survival care after patients are discharged from the hospital. This SMS messaging system allows for consistent follow-up communications, allowing clinicians to monitor patient progress and provide education on sepsis post-discharge when patients and their families can better absorb it.

For patients with heightened readmission risk, such as those with comorbidities, Twistle can facilitate regular follow-up communications, allowing clinicians to continuously monitor patient progress. Sepsis improvement teams can also use the application to coordinate with home health agencies, enabling early detection of complications and ensuring timely, ongoing support for survivors.

The Ongoing Battle Against Sepsis

As the healthcare industry at large observes Sepsis Survivor Week, we celebrate advancements in applied technologies while recognizing the need for continued improvement in sepsis survival care. The ongoing battle against sepsis is a collaborative effort, uniting data-driven solutions, persistent patient engagement, and the dedication of healthcare professionals to reduce the prevalence of sepsis, improve survivor care, and ultimately save lives.

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