Timely Response to Sepsis is Critical to Saving Lives

Timely Response to Sepsis is Critical to Saving Lives

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Recently, AMDA President, Mr. Karl Steinberg shed additional light on a serious condition that those without experience may be unaware of, and can prove fatal without timely intervention. Sepsis is a very common health complication for our aging population and is potentially life-threatening as the body responds to an infection while damaging its own tissues.

Sepsis is more deadly than one might think, as more than 258,000 Americans fall prey to it every year. Though deadly and often spreads quickly in individuals, sepsis can be controlled through timely treatment and intervention. 

Symptoms to Watch Out For 

It is important to keep track of any visible symptoms and report them to a health practitioner right away:

  • Abnormal body temperature: over 101 degrees or lower than 95 degrees
  • Higher heart rate: above 90 beats per minute 
  • Shaking: tremors or experiencing chills
  • Increasing confusion: altered states or confusion which are more common in the elderly

The best way of stopping sepsis is by making sure that the infection does not develop or spread throughout the body in the first place. 

This is where strong communication systems and processes are critical. A floor nurse who alerts a doctor the minute sepsis is suspected can start interventions that avoid further complications. Hucu.ai can help in this process by ensuring messages get to the right provider at the right time and care decisions are taken faster. In fact, 73% of users recently surveyed said that Hucu.ai helps them make care decisions faster.


Doctors Need to Set the Record Straight

Doctors should realize that there needs to be proper conversation regarding sepsis and its treatment. According to Professor, David Paterson (Director of the University of Queensland Center for Clinical Research),

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The term sepsis was often incorrectly used in many medical specialities.”

There have been nationwide calls by experts for there to be proper identification, treatment and management of sepsis in the medical community. Getting proper data on sepsis is difficult as it is still undercounted by hospitals. With increasing accurate EMR usage, electronic medical records will help with identifying and accurately capturing data on the prevalence of sepsis being reported in hospitals. 

Professor Paterson suggests that education is of prime importance if we want clinicians to both identify and manage this illness properly. Doctors and others in the medical community must first come to proper terms with the actual terminology of sepsis and what it truly is.The Australian Sepsis Network, for instance regularly gets complaints from people who have suffered from sepsis. Most common were:

(1.) those who did not receive timely treatment and this either caused a permanent disability or a death of a loved one.

(2.) those who recovered from it but continued to suffer from long-time cognitive, physical or other psychological effects. 

All this points out the stark reality of sepsis across the world: it can have a serious impact on one’s life and that it is widely “under-recognized” in the medical community. It is their responsibility to spread awareness and educate communities over the signs and symptoms of sepsis and when to seek medical attention.   

How Timely Treatment of Sepsis Limits Health Complications 

The condition of a patient with untreated sepsis can grow worse and so, clinicians stepping in at the right time will make a big difference and will help save lives. Recent studies by clinical-researchers at the University of Melbourne have shown that a “standardized sepsis pathway” facilitates early recognition and offers quick treatment as it helps save lives in a cancer hospital. 

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The clinicians at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center created and actively integrated a sepsis pathway, as this pathway focused on timely recognizing, resuscitation and referral of patients. They prioritized six actions for the initial management of sepsis within the first hour. These included, oxygen administration, taking samples of blood cultures, testing of blood lactate levels, and administering fluid resuscitation and the needed antibiotic treatment. Before its actual implementation, they made sure staff across multiple hospital wards received adequate training for there to be a smooth care delivery process. 

A key aspect of the pathway was: making sure to include a checklist of signs and symptoms in the point of care delivery, helping nurses start the pathway before the medical review. This saves time and enables nurses to kick start activities (oxygen administration, taking blood cultures) before the doctor arrives. Timing is what matters most in sepsis management. Proper monitoring and quickly delivering oxygen can help bring a patient back to life. This helped deliver pre-antibiotic treatment quicker and helped streamline the initial responses to sepsis. Early recognition and treatment of sepsis has been associated with fewer deaths. 

Machine-Learning Algorithms: the Future of Sepsis Treatment

Most industry leaders are using these programs to identify the risk factors associated with sepsis and for warning providers regarding which patients are at the greatest risk. S John Hopkins University started working on one such algorithm back in 2015. The program analyzed patients’ electronic health records for factors that increase sepsis risk and combined with current vital signs, deduced which patients were at risk of developing septic shock. Later on, their team made use of machine learning to increase the speed of their program (Targeted Real-Time Early Warning System). Their program was soon incorporated into the workflows of 2,000 healthcare providers affiliated with the John Hopkins Medicine system. Doctors and nurses made use of this program during 760,000 encounters, with over 17,000 patients who had sepsis. 

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The use of this program proved quite beneficial, in terms of earlier diagnosis of sepsis and reduced mortality rates among patients. 

This tool helps busy doctors and nurses prioritize which patients to check on first without removing their ability to make their own decisions. They can choose to disagree because we don’t want to take autonomy away from the provider. This is a tool to assist, this is not a tool to tell them what to do.”

The integration of an AI program within existing record systems in hospitals and making it part of provider workflows will only prevent harm and benefit the patient at the end of the day!

Sources

Sepsis: More Common and Deadly than you may think. 

Sepsis: time for doctors to get their house in order

Improving how we manage Sepsis. 

Algorithm That Detects Sepsis Cut Deaths by Nearly 20 Percent

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