OhioHealth Sepsis Effort ‘Saved About 250 Lives’

Christopher Cheney, January 25, 2018

A systemwide initiative involving physicians, nurses, laboratory operations, and pharmacists has helped the nonprofit reduce its sepsis mortality rate.

Jim O'Brien
James O'Brien

OhioHealth has lowered the health system's sepsis mortality rate by 4.3 percentage points over the past two years through staff education and a new diagnostic tool.

"Our estimate is that we have saved about 250 lives," says James O'Brien MD, director of quality and patient safety at the Columbus-based health system.

Sepsis is the body's extreme reaction to an infection, which can result in life-threatening symptoms such as multiple organ failure. Annually, more than 1.5 million people get sepsis in the United States, with about 250,000 fatalities.

Starting in July 2015, OhioHealth has reduced sepsis mortality by educating staff members, utilizing a new diagnostic test, reducing the medication response time from hospital-based pharmacists, and creating a clinical culture that tolerates false diagnosis alarms.

Education effort

The effort required engaging thousands of health system workers about sepsis and highlighting an opportunity for care improvement, O'Brien says.

"A big piece has been making the case that this work is important to us as an organization by looking at the underlying data of what our baseline mortality rate was and how many people it was affecting across our health system," he says.

When OhioHealth launched the sepsis effort in 2015, the sepsis mortality rate was 24.3%. Last year, mortality in sepsis patients was 20%.

The health system’s wide range of hospital size, from critical access hospitals to its 800-bed tertiary care hospital, has been a significant challenge, O'Brien says.

Emergency care has been a focal point for the initiative, both internally in the health system's ERs and externally among emergency medical service workers, he says.

Christopher Cheney

Christopher Cheney is the senior finance editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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