[BLOG]: Sepsis: 4 things formulary managers can do to save lives, resources

August 24, 2015

4 things formulary managers can do to save lives and resources.

AbramsEveryone is a potential victim of the dangerous condition known as sepsis, which kills more than 258,000 Americans each year. That is more than the number of people who die annually from breast, lung, and prostate cancer combined, making it one of the most common causes of death in the United States. The Sepsis Alliance defines the condition as the body's overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection which can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

What is especially troubling is that sepsis can affect anyone no matter their age, gender, or ethnicity. And it can be caused by any source of infection from a simple bug bite, to a more severe source such as pneumonia. The symptoms of sepsis are common to many other mild illnesses, which makes it difficult to diagnose. In addition, 40% of patients diagnosed with severe sepsis do not survive. For the thousands who do, they are left with post-sepsis syndrome that can result in mild to severe physical and/or mental disability.

Not only does sepsis cost lives, but the cost to treat patients for the condition in 2011 was $20.3 billion, according to the National Institutes of Health. Each sepsis case costs hospitals between $22,000 and $57,700. This makes sepsis the single most expensive condition treated in US hospitals.

Related:Sepsis patients return to hospital for preventable reasons

For all of these reasons, healthcare professionals must work together to combat this condition. The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), along with Ohio’s 220 member hospitals, is leading the charge to reduce sepsis-related mortality by 30% in the state. In 2015, OHA created the Institute for Health Innovation (Institute) to develop and implement strategies focused in the areas of accelerating healthcare quality, integrating transitions of patient care, and advancing community health. One of the primary focus areas of the Institute is to reduce sepsis.

OHA is partnering with the Sepsis Alliance and James O'Brien, MD, MS, serves as a physician champion the Statewide Sepsis Initiative. Dr O’Brien is the vice president of Quality and Patient Safety at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital and is a founder and chair of the Board of Directors of the Sepsis Alliance nationally.

The OHA formed a clinical advisory team with experts, like O’Brien, to address how to meet the goal of reducing sepsis by 30% in the state. The goal will be achieve using the following methods:

  • Collaboration with clinical leadership at member hospitals for at least 2 years;

  • Performance of hospital-specific gap analysis;

  • Formation of meaningful hospital-specific action plans;

  • Emphasis on early recognition and intervention;

  • Collection and submission of data on adherence to a 3-hour bundle;

  • Leveraging current submitted data and diagnostic codes for severe sepsis and septic shock;

  • Providing pertinent professional continuing education;

  • Facilitating coaching calls; and

  • Establishing online tools and resources.

 

NEXT: 4 things formulary managers can do to reduce sepsis

 

4 things formulary managers can do to reduce sepsis

While OHA is forging ahead to combat sepsis, there are actions every healthcare professional can take to reduce this difficult condition. Early recognition and immediate treatment can reduce the morbidity and mortality of sepsis. In other words, healthcare professionals need to be fast and loud to beat sepsis.

The following are 4 specific things formulary managers can do in the battle against sepsis:

1. Increase consumer and patient awareness.

Educating consumers about sepsis and the urgent need for treatment is a critical first step. Although sepsis is prevalent and deadly, it remains an unknown and often misunderstood condition. Speaking to patients about the risks and symptoms of sepsis is one of the most important things medical professionals can do. Formulary managers can participate in Sepsis Awareness Month, which is held each September and sponsored by the Sepsis Alliance. The Alliance has tools and handouts that doctors and other providers can share with patients about the condition.

Related:5 ways to manage sepsis

The best way to reduce the risk of developing sepsis is to reduce the risk of infection. Healthcare professionals can encourage consumers to keep up to date on vaccinations for preventable diseases and to complete proper hand washing. Healthcare professionals can educate consumers about the importance of seeking treatment promptly for an infection, and to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics.

2. Act fast: Treat sepsis as a medical emergency

Until a cure for sepsis is found, early detection is the surest hope for survival. One of the components of OHA’s initiative to fight sepsis is to hardwire the recognition and initiation of appropriate treatment within the first three hours of a patient’s arrival at the hospital. Research shows that the rapid administration of antibiotics and fluids early in the treatment drastically improves outcomes. Formulary managers must treat sepsis as a medical emergency with an urgent need for immediate treatment.

3. Know and screen for risk factors

Sepsis is a risky business. The blatant risk factor is an infection. Any infection – even a hangnail – can trigger sepsis that can lead to severe sepsis and septic shock. The infection can be bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic. Infants, seniors, and people with chronic and serious illnesses have the greatest risk for the condition. Be vigilant and follow the sepsis protocol at your facility. Or, if appropriate, request that a sepsis screening program be developed.

4. Participate in continuing education about sepsis

Formulary managers can participate in professional courses to learn more about preventing, detecting, and treating sepsis and post sepsis-related conditions. At OHA, we provide access to online educational lectures and materials at ohiohospitals.org/sepsis. We also conduct regular coaching calls for members of the Statewide Sepsis Initiative in Ohio.

There are many unknowns about sepsis. But what we do know is that sepsis kills. We know that sepsis can devastate the lives of its survivors. And we know that the cost to treat sepsis is exorbitant. At OHA, we are determined to beat sepsis. We invite you to join the effort by being fast – with early treatment, and loud – by increasing awareness. Together, we can strike down sepsis.

Mike Abrams is the president and CEO of the Ohio Hospital Association.