Sepsis Awareness Month: Healthcare Provider Toolkit

ESO Staff

Every September, efforts are underway to raise awareness of America’s leading cause of death in the hospital. As a part of Sepsis Awareness Month, the Sepsis Alliance encourages the public, government officials, and health care providers to learn more about the warning signs and important statistics of sepsis – including the fact that every 20 seconds someone is diagnosed with sepsis, and every 2 minutes, someone dies from the disease (that’s 270,000 people a year, more than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined).  

As a part of the month’s activities, the Sepsis Alliance has compiled an online Health Care Toolkit for providers that offers tools to not only help inform staff but help educate patients as well.  

For example, downloadable resources include: 

  • Patient Toolkit: “Life After Sepsis” handout (includes expectations of what the patient may feel once home, description of post-sepsis syndrome, and tips for recovery); tips for talking to your healthcare team; ways to help prevent sepsis; sepsis fact sheet. 
  • The “Nurse’s Station”: Articles and infographics about sepsis identification, treatment, and sepsis guidelines; continuing education programs, both free and paid; patient education materials; videos geared towards both professionals and the general public. 
  • Additional Tools: Spanish resources, Public Service Announcements, social media images and tools, 50 handy sepsis guides, ideas and tips for hosting a sepsis awareness or fundraising event. 

Additionally, the Sepsis Alliance places great emphasis on the important role that nurses play in helping identify and improve sepsis care, since their regular interaction with patients is so great. The site offers specific tools for nurses in a school setting or at camps (sepsis is the leading cause of death for children, taking the lives of more than 3 million each year). Providing rapid care to patients with sepsis with immediate antibiotics and fluids as part of an organized approach has the potential to save thousands of lives a year. 

The number of sepsis cases in the U.S. is increasing by 80% every year, causing an average of 38 amputations every day. Sadly, more than 40% of American adults have never heard of sepsis, and cannot recognize the symptoms and warning signs, making this disease even more deadly. Additionally, the sepsis epidemic is alarming from an economic perspective. According to the Sepsis Alliance: 

  • Sepsis is the #1 cost of hospitalization in the U.S., representing $27 billion each year 
  • The average cost per hospital stay for sepsis is $18,400, double the average cost-per-stay of all other conditions 
  • Sepsis in the leading cause for hospital readmissions, representing more than $2 billion each year 

Health care professionals have been actively working to address the concerning increases in sepsis cases, including utilizing data to help better understand the sepsis epidemic. One possibility is that many sepsis cases in the past have been misdiagnosed as other diseases, since there is currently no single test to identify sepsis. Additionally, areas for improvement in post-discharge care and patient communication have been identified to help ensure adherence to proper medication and wound care routines, hopefully reducing readmissions and helping drive down the occurrence of infection.  

Finally, utilizing new digital tools in first response and hospital – especially electronic patient care records (ePCRs) – can keep patient records more accurate and easy to review, freeing up providers to have more time to focus on vigilance against sepsis warning signs. Likewise, evidence-based screening tools can help EMS providers rapidly identify patients suffering from sepsis and begin life-saving treatments, such as emergent blood pressure stabilization with IV fluids and medications. Digital records can also improve bidirectional data sharing between hospitals and EMS to improve protocols, identify areas for improvement, and overall benefit communities. 

Through these efforts of education, earlier identification and intervention, and improved communication, health care providers are actively battling the rise of sepsis and its deadly effects. It is hopeful that through these actions, the epidemic may be reverted and more Americans will be aware of how they can partner with the health care industry to prevent and identify the earliest signs of sepsis. 

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