Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital uses EMR to cut sepsis infections by almost half

Hospitals mostly use electronic medical records (EMR) systems to keep track of patient’s symptoms and treatments. But one hospital has started to use its EMR as a tool to fight sepsis.

FemaleDoctorMount Sinai Hospital in New York has experienced a sharp drop in infections, thanks in part to some tweaks to its EMR. According to an article about the hospital’s efforts in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), sepsis deaths at the facility were nearly cut in half – and the program wasn’t even hospital-wide.

Stopping sepsis

Compared with similar hospitals, Mount Sinai had a high rate of sepsis infection. Half of all deaths at the hospital were attributed to the condition.

In May 2012, the hospital first began its sepsis reduction program, Stop Sepsis, according to the hospital’s website. So far, it’s been implemented in the emergency department, as well as on several patient floors.

There were several components to the program. All nurses received additional training about recognizing the warning signs of sepsis. A specially trained group of nurse practitioners were assigned to the Stop Sepsis team. Nurses reach out to the team if they feel a patient is at risk, and a team member quickly responds to the situation, determining the appropriate treatment.

EMR alerts saved lives

The hospital’s EMR was engineered to alert the Stop Sepsis team. Per the CMAJ, if staffers enter vitals into the system that match up with the early signs of sepsis, including an elevated temperature and pulse, the EMR automatically triggers an alert prompting a team member to evaluate the patient.

Having the EMR generate a “red alert” for sepsis symptoms took the guesswork out of diagnosing the condition for clinical staff.  And it took some of the pressure off nurses, who may have felt pushback in the past from other providers when calling attention to some of the more “minor” symptoms of the illness.

Results lead to expansion

In the first year of the Stop Sepsis program, there were 40% fewer deaths from sepsis at Mount Sinai. In fact, the hospital’s mean sepsis mortality rate went from 33% to 16%, which puts it in line with its peer hospitals, according to Dr. Charles Powell, the chief of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Mount Sinai, who spearheaded the program.

Because of the positive results the program’s shown, Mount Sinai is expanding it to the entire hospital this month. Along with the use of the EMR to alert clinical staff of possible symptoms, the hospital will also be training more staffers about how to detect the early signs of sepsis, including pharmacists and laboratory staff.

Any initiative that successfully reduces sepsis infections should be watched closely by all hospitals, as the condition kills 210,000 patients each year, according to data from the National Institutes of Health. Hospitals would be wise to develop some sort of sepsis response protocol to improve patient outcomes.

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