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Groundbreaking Severe Sepsis Prevention Program Saves Lives

CHW Reduces Sepsis Mortality by 33 Percent in Three Years, Reduces Costs by $36.5 Million

San Francisco, CA - August 30, 2010 - Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the nation's eighth largest health system, today announced that its severe sepsis prevention initiative has saved an additional 991 lives and reduced severe sepsis inpatient mortality rate by 33 percent at the end of three years.

"A core tenet of the health care reform plan enacted by Congress is that we can improve quality while also reducing costs," says Lloyd H. Dean, CHW President/Chief Executive Officer. "The results of this program clearly demonstrate those achievements are possible."

CHW launched the three-year initiative in July 2007 with the goal of reducing its inpatient severe sepsis mortality rate by five percent across its 41 hospitals in California, Arizona, and Nevada by 2010.

Sepsis is the body's overwhelming response to a serious bacterial infection. It can start in a single area in the body or can be widespread in the bloodstream. If not diagnosed early and treated quickly, sepsis can rapidly lead to organ failure and death. According to the national Surviving Sepsis Campaign, there are more than 750,000 cases of severe sepsis annually in North America with 210,000 fatalities, making it the number one cause of inpatient mortality. Using the Surviving Sepsis Campaign recommendations, as well as the Institute for Health Care Improvement's collaborative improvement methods, CHW caregivers and staff focused on early recognition of severe sepsis patients, increasing the use of aggressive and appropriate treatment protocols, educating healthcare professionals, monitoring compliance to treatment guidelines, and facilitating data collection for the purposes of improvement and feedback.

"This is innovative and groundbreaking work," said R. Phillip Dellinger, M.D., a leader in the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, professor of medicine at University Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey, and the director of critical care for Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. "CHW's caregivers have demonstrated the power of a well-organized quality program that both reduces morbidity and mortality while also achieving significant cost savings."

Each CHW hospital has a multi-disciplinary team comprising physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and other clinicians that implement an early resuscitation 'bundle' - a series of evidence-based measurable treatments that have proven effective when implemented together - during the first six hours a patient is diagnosed with sepsis. The bundle consists of measuring the patient's blood lactate levels and blood cultures, administering appropriate antibiotics within the first hour of a patient presenting to the emergency department and administering appropriate treatments for low blood pressure.

In its nine Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area hospitals, CHW has received a two-year grant totaling $1.8 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to support the expansion of sepsis prevention nursing education. Utilizing the grant and a portion of matching funds, CHW has hired an analyst, paid for innovative sepsis education services and has developed a comprehensive sepsis education program.


CHW reduces sepsis mortality by 33 percent, saves $36.5 million in three years.

Publish date: 

Monday, August 30, 2010