Early Warning System Boosts Sepsis Detection, Care


An alert system that monitors inpatients at risk of developing sepsis can prompt early sepsis care, can speed patient transfers to the ICU, and may even reduce mortality risk from sepsis.

A recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine reports on an early warning and response system (EWRS) for sepsis used in all three hospitals within the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) for three-month spans in 2012 and 2013. The system integrates laboratory values and vital signs into patients EHRs and establishes a threshold for triggering the alert.

After implementing the EWRS, at-risk patients received faster care for sepsis and/or were transferred to the ICU more quickly, says lead author Craig A. Umscheid, MD, MSCE, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Practice at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Study authors also note that quicker care suggested reduced mortality from sepsis as well.

"Whenever a patient triggered the alert, their probability of mortality was much higher than patients who didn't trigger the alert," Dr. Umscheid says. "I think what makes our study unique compared to other studies that have tried to predict sepsis is that beyond just creating a prediction rule for sepsis, we actually implemented it into a clinical care setting, alerted providers in real time, and then those providers changed their care based on the prediction."

More than 90% of care teams arrived at the bedside when they received an alert. "Meaning that they saw some value in the alert, and the infrastructure that we put in place was able to mobilize the team and get them to the bedside within 30 minutes," Dr. Umscheid adds. "We saw an increase in sepsis antibiotics used, and we saw an increase in fluid boluses within six hours.”

As many as 3 million cases of severe sepsis occur in the U.S. annually, and 750,000 result in deaths, according to the study. The high number of cases has led to several efforts to create better clinical practices for sepsis patients.

"Sepsis is arguably one of the most, if not the most important, causes of preventable mortality in the inpatient setting," Dr. Umscheid says. "One thing that we thought we could do better was identify sepsis cases earlier so that we could provide early antibiotics and fluids."

Visit our website for more information on identifying and treating sepsis.

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