January 12, 2010
By Laura Duray, TSG Consulting The identification and treatment of sepsis, a severe illness resulting from an infection, is a significant issue for hospitals and health care facilities. Many facilities in West Virginia are making the effort to ensure that staff is properly trained to identify and treat sepsis, in the hopes of saving the lives of more patients. According to Cynthia Coleman, sepsis coordinator at Charleston Area Medical Center, about 750,000 U.S. patients get severe sepsis each year with a death rate of 35 to 40 percent, or approximately 263,000 patients. Health care facilities in central and southern West Virginia are taking steps to reduce that rate. These health care facilities are a part of a health care network in West Virginia known as the Partners in Health Network, Inc. Representatives from several health care organizations already have gone through sepsis training, developed and conducted by CAMC’s training center in Charleston. They can report a vast improvement in the timely identification and treatment of sepsis among patients who come through their facilities. As a member of the Partners in Health Network, CAMC has opened its services to fellow members, giving them the opportunity to expand on their health care services and work together to improve the quality of health care in West Virginia. This is important because the rural health care facilities that went through training are now better equipped to handle an occurrence of severe sepsis. “Our hospital has experienced the results of the sepsis training program at CAMC,” said Sandra Elza, CEO of Jackson General Hospital. “We are able to save the lives of patients because our staff was properly trained to identify and treat sepsis.” Formed in 1994, the Partners in Health Network consists of 22 health care organizations – including large hospitals, health departments and community health centers in the central and southern part of West Virginia – that work together to provide better patient care. What works best about the Partners in Health Network is that the organization uses an integrated approach to sharing and networking about health care improvement opportunities, such as severe sepsis identification and treatment training. Since February 2009, the mortality rate of patients transferred from outlying hospitals to CAMC has dropped from 50 percent to 25 percent. This can be attributed to the programs implemented by outlying hospitals, which work with the sepsis policies developed by CAMC. Work with emergency medical services that transport patients from outlying hospitals to CAMC also contributed to the decline in mortality. Through years of research and practical experience, CAMC developed the Severe Sepsis Screening Worksheet. The checklist offers both questions to be answered and treatment suggestions for patients in distress. Thomas Horsman, MD, director of physician networking at CAMC, called it an effective, practical use of time and resources and compared it to an aviation pilot’s checklist. “You have to go through a procedure and make sure you don’t miss things,” Horseman said. “That’s what makes this effective. We were teaching residents these same things 35 years ago, but we didn’t have a checklist.” Members of the Partners in Health Network, Inc., understand the importance of early detection for severe sepsis, which is why each health care facility in the network is taking the time to go through the training process. “It’s all about early recognition,” Dave Seidler, MD, chairman of CAMC’s department of emergency medicine, said. “We want to catch and treat the severe sepsis cases as quickly as possible.” Reprinted with permission of TSG Consulting

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