We all know the standard items that are on most hospital leaders’ to-do lists — population health, physician recruitment, IT upgrades, etc. One particular problem that’s killing about 220,000 patients a year, however, isn’t on the mind of every CEO, but experts say that’s due for a change.
As we explored in January’s H&HN, sepsis has become a pressing issue for hospitals across the country, with a controversial new core measure tied to its treatment. About half of patients who die in a hospital have sepsis and, while it’s not possible to completely eradicate it, some of the field’s best have found ways to reduce sepsis mortality drastically.
Like many hospital leaders, sepsis management wasn’t really on the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s list of things to tackle, when it started work on critical care. But that’s quickly changed and, after years of rooting out best practices, the organization is launching a nine-month-long series of Web events tied to sepsis strategy, debuting with the first installment Wednesday, March 2.
In an interview last week, IHI Vice President Andrea Kabcenell, R.N., said the new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services measure shouldn’t be a hospital’s sole reason for taking on sepsis. Doing so, she believes, will help health care organizations prepare for the next complex clinical issue plaguing the field.
“The core measure comes along at a time that draws attention, but the attention shouldn’t be on the core measure alone,” she said. “It should be on hospitals’ ability to wrestle this very troubling problem to the ground.”
Sepsis was a mysterious and difficult problem to tackle when the IHI first started its work several years ago. But thanks to the hard work of hospital networks like Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-Long Island Jewish) in New York, and Intermountain in Utah, the path is much clearer today. As we explored in January’s story, those industry leaders have made a dent in sepsis mortality by using everything from dedicated task forces to holding collaborative conferences on sepsis.
Northwell, for one, has reduced sepsis deaths by about 50 percent, without any expensive infrastructure investments. “This is something that is scalable and can be picked up in other organizations, because we did not create a big addition to the budget to do this work,” Martin Doerfler, M.D., Northwell senior vice president of clinical strategy and development, told us.
IHI’s nine-part series will focus on a different facet of sepsis management each month, ranging from diagnosis to measurement, treatment and continuity once your hospital has made initial gains. If you’re hospital isn’t interested in spending the dollars on the Web program, or committing to nine months of in-depth learning, the IHI has resources on its website to aid in the sepsis battle.
Plus, clinical leaders at both Intermountain and Northwell have been open to sharing their thoughts with those seeking advice on sepsis, Kabcenell tells me.
“So far, they’ve been pretty generous about taking an email and saying, ‘Here’s what we did or here’s the tool we used,’ ” she said. “My thought is that, whether you join the virtual program or not, you need to get started and push yourself past where you are now, because even people at Intermountain and Northwell would say, ‘We’re still working on it. We still think there’s more mortality we can squeeze out of the system. We still think there are opportunities to streamline our processes and work together better.’ ”