10 Imperatives to Reduce Sepsis Mortality

A Playbook for Elevating Sepsis Care

Topics: Length of Stay, Efficiency, Clinical Operations, Process Improvement, Infection Control, Quality, Mortality, Outcomes, Evidence-Based Practice, Methodologies

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Executive Summary

Reviewing sepsis mortality statistics is a sobering exercise. In 2008, only 2% of hospital patients were diagnosed with sepsis, but it was responsible for 17% of hospital deaths. This study includes ten tactics to build a system of care that promotes early identification, coordinates care team responsibilities, and delivers timely treatment for every sepsis patient, every time.

Hospitals can save more lives with consistent, evidence-base care

Despite the availability of evidence-based guidelines for sepsis, mortality rates for the condition have increased over the past decade. The problem most often lies in translating treatment knowledge into practice. 

The early signs of sepsis easily fly under the radar and treatment requires a significant amount of coordination among the care team, all within a short time. However, some organisations have consistently achieved better sepsis outcomes by setting a disciplined, defined standard for sepsis screening and treatment.


Optimal sepsis care requires a defined team approach

Sepsis failures can rarely be traced back to a single provider. Typically, the culprit is a system breakdown. Most organisations lack defined sepsis processes that coordinate care team roles to deliver timely treatment for every patient.

Clinical leaders should be prepared to invest in tools, alerts, and training to build a system that supports clinicians. Leaders should also engage frontline clinicians to build this system, since they are instrumental in identifying and addressing process breakdowns. Once the system is in place, leaders should foster a culture of accountability for sepsis protocol adherence.


A principled sepsis program rollout starts in the ED

Organisations with best-in-class sepsis programs typically start by introducing sepsis protocols in the ED and then rolling them out to other units. This strategy prioritises the ED, since 83% of sepsis cases are present upon admission. 

By starting in the ED, organisations can refine their processes and build momentum for sepsis protocol adoption in the ICU and floor units. 


A sepsis initiative should ingrain sustainable behaviors

Sepsis initiative leaders may use “campaign-like” tactics to increase awareness and buy-in for strategies such as utilising a sepsis brand or sharing potent patient stories. 

However, ensuring long-term performance improvement should be the priority, which can be achieved by creating sustainable practice patterns and instilling accountability among the care team.