A rapid response to a potentially deadly infection
WellSpan has a team of experts who are on duty around-the-clock with one critical job: to quickly intervene when a patient in one of our hospitals shows signs of sepsis.
Sepsis is a life-threatening medical emergency. It happens when an infection a patient already has – in their skin, lungs, urinary tract or somewhere else – triggers a chain reaction throughout the body. Sepsis moves rapidly and, without timely treatment, can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death in up to 30 percent of patients who delay seeking care.
In 2017, WellSpan unveiled a unique way to quickly detect sepsis via a group called the Central Alert Team. The team consists of registered nurses with critical care and emergency medicine experience who continuously monitor patients at all WellSpan hospitals from a remote “bunker” that is the telemonitoring center of our sepsis response.
The team is notified when WellSpan’s electronic health record system detects symptoms of sepsis in a patient’s vital signs, including the patient’s temperature, heart rate and lab results.
When notified of these markers, the team directly contacts the patient’s physician or nurse to let them know that they should begin sepsis treatment, following specific steps that include blood tests, the administration of antibiotics and other treatments.
How the team has changed things
The time it takes WellSpan to respond to sepsis cases has dramatically shortened. Before the team was established, the response time was more than an hour. After the team started working, the response time dropped to 12 to 15 minutes.
Due to our Central Alert Team, the percentage of our patients who receive both timely and effective care for severe sepsis and septic shock is better than both the state and the national average.
We also have speeded up the time we give antibiotics to patients who have signs of sepsis within three hours, which is what the federal government uses as a goal.
Leading the way
WellSpan’s work in this area has attracted the attention of other health care providers across the country, as well as leaders in the industry. WellSpan has shared our innovative work with health care providers from Boston, Tennessee, Oklahoma Wisconsin, Virginia and Pennsylvania, including the members of AllSpire, a collaborative think tank of health care providers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Modern Health Care, a national source of healthcare business and policy news, featured our work in an article.
Five WellSpan hospitals use the Central Alert Team. WellSpan Chambersburg and WellSpan Waynesboro hospitals are adding the team in summer 2020 and will further refine the monitoring process after they align their electronic medical record with WellSpan’s system.
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