A Healthcare Risk Manager Shares Her Advice after Personally Surviving SepsisPosted on by
Guest Author: Pamela L. Popp MA JD DFASHRM CPHRM AIM DSA
Executive Vice President/Chief Risk Officer
In January of 2008, I joined the ranks of sepsis survivors. I too was placed on a ventilator, given months of antibiotic and antifungal treatments, suffered from memory loss and was financially devastated by the medical bills. So what makes my story different? The difference is that I have spent my career in healthcare risk management – the industry that works to prevent unsafe patient events, advocates for apology and disclosure when something does occur, and tries to find resolutions for patients and families that allow them to continue their lives.
And then I had my sepsis experience. I lost days of my life, lost years of memories, had to reteach myself basic skills and yet could find no one who understood my experience. So I turned to Sepsis Alliance. There I found information, survivor stories and a shared passion to find ways to prevent sepsis. So I decided to take the message back to the audience that I knew best: healthcare risk managers.
So, where should a risk manager start to implement a sepsis initiative? To achieve success in any risk endeavor, there needs to be an understanding of the global issue, then an investigation into the specific facility’s experience.
At a minimum, a sepsis initiative should include:
- Education for all providers and staff on symptom recognition;
- Policies reflecting the clinical guidelines on immediate treatment;
- Sepsis response ‘crash carts’ with resources needed to start treatment;
- Facility-wide signage outlining the symptoms for ease of recognition by patient families and friends;
- Respect for the word – if someone says it, it needs to be considered;
- Community education to encourage early recognition and seeking prompt medical attention from the ER where treatment can begin; and
- Communicate with EMS personnel on symptoms as well as signs of decline during transport and
- “Say sepsis. Then rule it out.”
The key to awareness is an assortment of visual triggers for providers, staff and patients/families to remember the signs, and to be on alert for patient deterioration. The more public and repetitive the information, the greater the chance that sepsis will be suspected and recognized.
The next step is to communicate to senior management the impact of the initiative in order to gain their support of the training and orientation efforts. The best way to facilitate this communication is to illustrate a return on investment (ROI) for the initiative in terms of reduced patient care costs as well as a focus on enhanced patient safety.
The final step is to take the message to the community through health fairs or presentations to key community organizations. Sepsis mortality rates decline when the patient goes to the ER at the first signs of sepsis. Educating the community members on the need for early recognition and seeking prompt medical attention can have a significant impact on sepsis rates in the community. Facilitating support groups for sepsis survivors can also have a positive impact on healing.
Sepsis deserves attention. It is our obligation to bring more knowledge and focus on this preventable, but deadly, condition.