Improving sepsis-related outcomes

Early diagnosis a key goal


Sepsis is a leading cause of death and disease among patients in hospitals, and it’s the subject of a recent quality improvement study in the Journal for Healthcare Quality.

Dr. Courtney M. Hughes

“The number of cases per year has been increasing in the U.S., and it is the most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals,” said lead author M. Courtney Hughes, PhD, of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

But early identification of symptoms can be complex and difficult for clinicians, meaning there’s a continuing need for research studies examining sepsis identification and prevention. “The purpose of this study was to examine a quality improvement project that consisted of clinical alerts, audit and feedback, and staff education at an integrated health care system in the Midwest,” she said.

In a retrospective analysis, the researchers examined data from three health systems to determine the impact of a 10-month sepsis quality improvement program that consisted of clinical alerts, audit and feedback, and staff education. The results showed that, compared with the control group, the intervention group significantly decreased length of stay and costs per stay.

“One way to improve sepsis health outcomes and decrease costs may be for hospitals to implement a sepsis quality improvement program,” Dr. Hughes said. “Also, providing sepsis performance data and education to hospital providers and administrators can arm staff with the knowledge and tools necessary for improving processes and performance related to sepsis.”

Dr. Hughes said that she hopes this work will encourage hospitalists to seek sepsis-related performance data and training. “By doing so, they may help achieve earlier diagnosis of sepsis cases and initiation of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign bundle.”


Hughes MC et al. A quality improvement project to improve sepsis-related outcomes at an integrated healthcare system. J Healthc Qual. Published online 2019 Mar 14. doi: 10.1097/JHQ.0000000000000193.

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