Room for Improvement in Identifying, Treating Sepsis


Despite huge strides in the treatment of heart failure, pneumonia and myocardial infarction, hospitals have a long way to go in improving care for patients with sepsis, say the authors of a recent commentary published online in JAMA.

In a related study published in July in JAMA, sepsis was found to contribute to one in every two to three hospital deaths based on mortality results from two independent patient cohorts measured between 2010 and 2012. Additionally, most instances of sepsis were present upon admission, the report notes.

For their part, hospitalists should focus on identifying the signs and symptoms of sepsis early, according to study authors Colin R. Cooke, MD, MSc, MS, and Theodore J. Iwashyna, MD, PhD, of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

"When patients are admitted for an illness such as pneumonia, we put them in a bin where we know how to treat patients with pneumonia, but we may fail to recognize when they meet the criteria for sepsis," Dr. Cooke says. "If we can recognize a patient has sepsis, then we can get on top of the illness faster by delivering antibiotics and also ensuring the patient gets fluid resuscitation early in the course of the disease."

In their JAMA article, Dr. Cooke and Dr. Iwashyna call on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to develop quality mandates that would encourage hospitals to share best practices in treating sepsis. The mandates, however, shouldn't include financial penalties, which the authors say "would create perverse incentives to not report delayed diagnosis of sepsis rather than address the problem."

Visit our website for more information on identifying sepsis in hospitalized patients.

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