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WellSpan Health earns John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award

May 13, 2020

Preeminent national award recognizes WellSpan’s innovative, lifesaving program to quickly detect and treat sepsis in hospital patients


WellSpan Health earns John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award

WellSpan Health has achieved a preeminent national award in patient safety and quality, making it the first Pennsylvania health system to achieve the prestigious honor in 15 years.

The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum today announced that WellSpan has won a 2019 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award – one of the highest safety awards in healthcare – for its Central Alert Team, an innovative program that works to quickly detect and treat sepsis, a life-threatening medical emergency.

The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare, and the National Quality Forum sets national standards for healthcare performance measurement. The two organizations founded the Eisenberg Awards in 2002 to recognize the best examples of individual, local and national efforts to improve patient safety and healthcare quality.

The awards were to have been announced in March during the National Quality Forum Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., but the conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last Pennsylvania health system to win an Eisenberg Award was the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2004.

Previous award winners have included well-known healthcare organizations across the country, including the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Hermann Health System in Texas, Kaiser Permanente and Henry Ford Health System in Michigan.

"WellSpan teams are reimagining healthcare by providing nation-leading quality and safety for sepsis care," said Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., president and CEO of WellSpan Health. "This prestigious honor is a testament to their innovation while finding a better way to improve the health of our communities."

WellSpan Health received the Eisenberg Award in the category of Local Level Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality, which recognizes a project or initiative that focuses on making an impact at the local community, organization or regional level.

WellSpan's Sepsis Central Alert Team program earned the award as an example of successful system changes or interventions that make care safer or advocate on a patient’s behalf. Begun in 2017, the Sepsis Central Alert Team is a group of registered nurses with critical care and emergency medicine experience who continuously monitor patients for signs of sepsis at five WellSpan hospitals from a remote "bunker."

The team is notified when WellSpan’s electronic health record system detects symptoms of sepsis in a patient’s vital signs, including temperature and heart rate, and lab results. When notified of these markers, the Central Alert Team directly contacts the patient’s physician or nurse, so they can determine if the patient may be septic or clinically unstable, and consider administering life-saving drugs, fluids and other interventions.

"The team is a marriage of real-time electronic healthcare data and a highly skilled clinical team," said Steven Delaveris, D.O., vice president of medical services, WellSpan Health. "That powerful combination results in WellSpan hospitals having some of the best survival rates for sepsis in the country. In real terms, this team is saving lives."

In fact, the team has saved an estimated 350 lives since its inception, as it dramatically shortened the time it takes WellSpan to respond to sepsis cases and speeded up the time that patients receive lifesaving medications. Early identification and screening times improved from 67 minutes to 12 minutes. As a result, the percentage of WellSpan patients who receive both timely and effective sepsis care is better than both state and national averages.

WellSpan York Hospital now boasts a sepsis survival rate in the top 1 percent of its peers nationally.

The health system’s work in this area has attracted the attention of healthcare providers from across the country, with leaders sharing sepsis best practices with hospital and health system leaders from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Virginia and other states.

The Eisenberg Awards, given in three categories, bring together the quality community to recognize groundbreaking initiatives that are consistent with the aims of the National Quality Strategy: better care, healthy people and communities, and smarter spending.

"This year’s Eisenberg Award recipients have demonstrated both a positive impact on the patients they serve as well as fulfilling the quality community’s mission to ensure that care is measured and can be improved," said Shantanu Agrawal, president and CEO, National Quality Forum.