By Amy Neff Roth
Published by Times Telegram, April 10, 2017.
New York has reduced the number of residents dying of sepsis since new regulations kicked in in 2014, state data shows.
Rory’s Regulations, named after Rory Staunton, 12, of Queens, who died of sepsis after a 2012 fall in the school gym, require hospitals to develop and implement protocols to diagnose and treat sepsis early, the first such requirement in the nation.
The protocols are needed, said Dr. Maria Gesualdo, president of Slocum-Dickson Medical Group and a pulmonary critical care specialist who’s heading up the sepsis initiative at the Mohawk Valley Health System.
“When somebody comes through the (emergency department), there’s a stroke alert,” she said. “We have protocols for myocardial infarction (heart attacks) … but we never had anything for sepsis.”
Sepsis, a dangerous reaction to infection, can progress rapidly, leading to the shutdown of the body’s organs and systems, making early intervention critical. It strikes 750,000 Americans each year, killing 200,000. It is the No. 1 cause of death in the hospital and the 11th leading cause of death overall.
In New York, mortality rates for sepsis among adults fell from 30.2 percent to 25.4 percent from mid-2014 through the end of September in 2016, according to the New York State Department of Health study. And the number of patients diagnosed with sepsis rose 20 percent, meaning hospitals got better at identifying patients, according to the study.
Much of the effort centers around screening all patients with infections to see if they may have or be at risk for sepsis, and the use of two protocol “bundles” for patients with sepsis. A bundle is a group of tests and treatments that all patients matching certain criteria should receive.
The three-hour bundle — care to be delivered within three hours — is to resuscitate patients who are severely septic or in septic shock, Gesualdo said. A six-hour bundle is for patients admitted with sepsis.
It’s not that doctors didn’t already know what to do, but they tended to “piecemeal” their treatments.
“Having it all in one order set, we capture everything,” she said. “We don’t miss any of the important elements.”
At Bassett Medical Center, Rory’s Regulations spurred specific initiatives such as a sepsis work group, an alert system for possible symptoms built into the electronic medical record, a rapid response team for a “coordinated and choreographed response,” and provider and nurse education, including the production of a new training video, said Chief of Medicine Dr. Charles Hyman.
“As a result of the above initiatives, Bassett Medical Center has made considerable progress over the past couple years,” he said. “Our 2016 compliance rate is above that of the (New York state) mean for sepsis protocol.”
That means more patients are receiving the prescribed care — such as a systemic antibiotic within one hour of diagnosis — quickly and fully. And the hospital’s sepsis mortality rate is falling below the state average, Hyman said.
The sepsis initiative has been important to spread awareness of a deadly issue and things are definitely improving, Gesualdo said. But perfect compliance doesn’t happen overnight. “It’s really a big initiative. We still have to iron out some wrinkles,” she said.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility,” she added. “We all have to work as a team. We need that nudging till it becomes knee-jerk response.”
Follow @OD_Roth on Twitter or call her at 315-792-5166.
“New York has been leading the fight against sepsis and, as these new figures show, our efforts are working to save lives and increase early detection and treatment of this deadly condition. I commend Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton for their advocacy and fighting in Rory’s memory to prevent further tragedies. It is our hope the rest of the nation recognizes the success that can be achieved by using Rory’s Regulations as a model for combating and ultimately ending sepsis infections once and for all.”
Ciaran Staunton represented the voice of a sepsis parent advocate speaking on behalf of the Rory Staunton Foundation at the 5th Annual World Patient Safety, Science and Technology Summit in Dana Point, California on February 3rd-4th. Pictured with him here is Jeremy Hunt, MP, Secretary of State for Health in the United Kingdom and Dr. Konrad Reinhart, an international champion of sepsis and chairman of Global Sepsis Alliance.
This important annual Summit brought together international leaders from hospitals, medical and informational technology companies, patient advocacy community, public policy makers and government officials to discuss solutions to the leading challenges that cause preventable patient deaths.
Keynote addresses at the summit included leading figures in the world of politics and health; President Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States and Vice President Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the United States, Joe Kiani Founder, Patient Safety Movement, Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt, MP Secretary of State for Health in the United Kingdom, and Patrick Conway, MD, MSC CMS.
We congratulate The Patient Safety Movement for their tireless efforts to improve patient safety and change the world of preventable deaths.
The Rory Staunton Foundation is the leading sepsis advocacy group in the United States and the National Family Council on Sepsis is the only family driven sepsis advocacy group in country comprising families who have lost loved ones to the preventable death of sepsis. The Rory Staunton Foundation and the National Family Council on Sepsis demand mandatory sepsis protocols in all hospitals throughout the United States.
Last Wednesday, October 20th, Ciaran Staunton spoke at the Mercy Hospital International Sepsis Conference in Cork, Ireland. The conference brought together speakers from all over the world to discuss initiatives to reduce mortality from sepsis.
In the last month Ciaran has traveled to South Dakota, Indiana, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania among other places to spread the word on sepsis.
The Rory Staunton Foundation has taken part in discussions on several T.V. and radio shows, we have distributed thousand of brochures detailing the signs of sepsis, we have attended parent information days at public schools, lobbied government and state agencies daily and we are continuing our hard work on creating a new educational program for teens.
This is why we need an the maximum $35,000 prize from L’Oreal Women of Worth-our work is far from done, we respond daily to people who have buried loved ones from sepsis and did not know the signs and whose doctors did not check for sepsis.
On Wednesday the Rory Staunton Foundation and the National Family Council on Sepsis joined the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Karen Murphy, State Representatives and sepsis survivors at a press conference announcing major new sepsis initiatives in Pennsylvania. We have have been working constructively with Secretary Murphy’s staff to see mandatory sepsis protocols adopted in Pennsylvania’s more than 220 hospitals and we are delighted with the state’s energetic response.
At the press conference, Pinnacle Health launched its Knock Out Sepsis Campaign, which will build on the health system’s remarkable success in reducing sepsis mortality rates by 40%.
As part of the sepsis campaign in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf also issued a Proclamation designating September as Sepsis Awareness Month and encouraged all Pennsylvanians to pursue preventive health practices and early detection efforts in order to be vigilant regarding this public health epidemic.
Following the conference, Ciaran Staunton from the Rory Staunton Foundation and National Family Council member Chris Aiello, a Pennsylvania resident whose daughter Emily died from sepsis at the age of 15, met with staff from Governor Wolfe’s office and other legislators to discuss the significant progress the state is making towards mandatory sepsis protocols. We look forward to Pennsylvania becoming a #SepsisSafe state!
When Rory died, the dreadful realization that I would never see his beautiful smiling face and sit and quietly watch him make his way through life very slowly seeped through every bone in my body. The reality that he is dead still drowns our family.
During Rory’s time in hospital we had begged God, besieged everyone who would listen to help us save him. Ciaran and I were told after his death that what he died from was extremely rare – we thought naively at the time… that means no-one could have spotted it, no doctor could have helped us.
But we painfully discovered very soon after his death, that the facts didn’t back up the statement that he had died from something rare. We now know that Rory died from sepsis, that sepsis kills over 258,000 American every year and that most people who become septic arrive at the hospital already very sick. The awful truth for us is that the medical professionals we entrusted with Rory’s care didn’t do what they should have been doing. They should have been looking for sepsis, they didn’t and Rory is dead. If they had diagnosed sepsis and treated him with broad spectrum antibiotics and IV fluids he would be alive.
We have been on a long journey for justice for Rory ever since and along the way we have changed the system in the United States. It has not been an easy journey, in fact at times it was torturous, phone call after phone call, meeting after meeting, but today the good news is that the CDC have launched a major new campaign and channeled millions of dollars to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about sepsis. They have released a Vital Signs report that clearly states that most sepsis cases are acquired in the community and that infection prevention is the single most important this we can do to end unnecessary deaths from sepsis. The education tools, resources and seminars the CDC have put together are nothing short of a major breakthrough in how sepsis is viewed and addressed in this country.
We are proud of our role in bringing this to pass. We are relieved that health care workers and parents will learn more about sepsis from the CDC. Every life is precious. Although we are heartsick that this did not come about soon enough for our boy, we hope and believe that it will save other lives and we are heartened by the fact that it is still possible for a small group of people to affect change on a national scale.
By Michelle Andrews
Published by Kaiser Health News, August 23, 2016.
After Rory Staunton fell at the gym and cut his arm in March of 2012, the 12-year-old became feverish and vomited during the night, complaining of a sharp pain in his leg. When his parents called his pediatrician the next day, she wasn’t worried. She said there was a stomach virus going around New York City, and his leg pain was likely due to his fall.
However, she advised his parents, Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton, to take the youngster to the emergency department because he might be dehydrated. There hospital workers did some blood work, gave him fluids and sent him home.
The next day Rory’s pain and fever were worse. His skin was mottled and the tip of his nose turned blue. The Stauntons raced back to the hospital, where he was admitted to intensive care. The diagnosis: septic shock. Rory was fighting a system-wide infection that was turning his skin black and shutting down his organs. On Sunday, four days after he dove for the ball in gym class, Rory died.
“It was frightening to think that something could kill my son so fast and it would be something that I had never heard of,” said Orlaith Staunton.
She’s not alone. Sepsis kills more than 250,000 people every year. People at highest risk are those with weakened immune systems, the very young and elderly, patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer or kidney disease and those with illnesses such as pneumonia or who use catheters that can cause infections. But it can strike anyone, even a healthy child like Rory.
Sepsis is a body’s overwhelming response to infection. It typically occurs when germs from an infection get into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. To fight the infection, the body mounts an immune response that may trigger inflammation that damages tissues and interferes with blood flow. That can lead to a drop in blood pressure, potentially causing organ failure and death.
Yet many people don’t know about sepsis. Meanwhile, health care providers struggle to identify it early. There’s no simple diagnostic test and many symptoms — elevated heart and respiratory rates, fever or chills, pain — are common ones that are present in many conditions.
Now, a growing number of doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and state and federal policymakers are pushing to educate consumers and clinicians and ensure procedures are followed that focus on prevention and early detection.
The Stauntons established a foundation to raise awareness about the deadly infection, and in 2013 New York became the first state to require all hospitals to put in place procedures for its early recognition and treatment. This month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a law requiring similar actions by hospitals in that state.
The federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to release a study Tuesday about sepsis as part of an effort to draw attention to the importance of prevention and early detection of the disease.
“Early treatment is vital,” said Dr. Anthony Fiore, chief of the epidemiology research and innovations branch at the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. “It’s an emergency that you need to deal with, like heart attack and stroke.”
In 2013, sepsis, or septicemia as it’s sometimes called, accounted for nearly $24 billion in hospital costs, the most expensive condition treated. Up to half of people who get it die. Many cases are related to health care, such as catheter use or an infection acquired in the hospital, but large numbers come from outside the hospital, too.
As the front line in identifying these cases, emergency departments typically have sepsis protocols in place to screen for the disease.
“The work you do in those first three to six hours in the emergency department makes more difference in cost than the whole next several weeks in the ICU,” said Dr. Todd L. Slesinger, emergency medicine residency program director at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center in Aventura, Fla., who co-chairs a task force on sepsis at the American College of Emergency Physicians, which has developed a tool to help emergency department staff screen and treat the condition.
Patient advocates and policymakers agree that patients themselves are key to improving its prevention and early detection. Good hygiene can help prevent sepsis, including cleaning wounds. If someone gets injured, look for signs of sepsis, including rapid breathing or heart rate, confusion, fever or chills and pale or discolored skin.
Don’t assume health care providers have it covered, experts advise. If you or someone you’re caring for has these symptoms, ask the health care provider directly: “Do you think it might be sepsis?”
Welcome Indiana… the Rory Staunton Foundation is honored to announce that Indiana will conduct a massive month-long Sepsis Awareness campaign partly inspired by Ciaran Staunton during his extensive speaking and media engagements in Indiana in June of this year.
“It (the campaign) would never have taken shape like this without your encouragement and your inspiration and your passion.”-says Jennifer Hurtubise of the Indiana Hospital Association.
Go Indiana…let’s save lives!
Join IHA in Sepsis Awareness Month
Download IHA’s sepsis member toolkit to get involved!
September is Sepsis Awareness Month and in Indiana we have almost 3,500 Hoosiers die from sepsis each year, according to the 2015 Indiana Hospital Association Inpatient Discharge Study.
With September right around the corner, the IHA is hosting a month-long sepsis awareness campaign with the theme, See It. Stop It. Survive It. Throughout the campaign, IHA will be pushing sepsis awareness on social media, hosting four webinars, creating digital media and billboard advertisements, launching survivesepsis.com on Sept. 1 and much more. However, in order to make a larger impact, we need the help of our member hospitals to continue to fight sepsis and generate greater awareness statewide.
We have created a Sepsis Awareness Toolkit and posted the information and artwork on Dropbox, and the files can be downloaded:
FAQ, fact sheet and patient materials – download
Social media guidelines and images – download
Printable poster files – download
Outdoor advertising/billboard designs and art files – download
This member campaign was created to aid in raising sepsis awareness in your hospitals and communities during the month of September but also throughout the year. Additionally, we hope that your hospital can utilize our billboard and poster signage by dedicating a portion of your paid media to the campaign in September. Donating media buys as part of the campaign will help to elevate our awareness efforts, ensuring the campaign is seen and heard statewide. IHA will work with you to provide graphics for your donated advertising opportunity according to the required specs.
On World Sepsis Day, Tuesday, Sept. 13, IHA and its partners will hold a Rally Against Sepsis in downtown Indianapolis to encourage Hoosiers to join in this fight. We will be in touch with additional details about the rally later this month.
If you have any questions regarding Sepsis Awareness Month, our See It. Stop It. Survive It. campaign or how to become more involved, please contact Annette Handy at ahandy@IHAconnect.org or Cynthia Roush at croush@IHAconnect.org.
While progress has been made, we must continue to work to reduce the number of sepsis-related deaths across the state. We ask you to join us to spread the word to save Hoosier lives. Together we will See It. Stop It. Survive It.
Recently, as part of the Rory Staunton Foundation’s ongoing campaign for sepsis awareness, Ciaran Staunton was a keynote speaker at the Indiana Patient Safety Center’s (IPSC) Patient Safety Summit in Indianapolis. Part of the Indiana Hospital Association, IPSC has been working with Indiana hospitals to improve sepsis awareness, early recognition and rapid treatment – with promising results.
The theme of this year’s Summit was The Power of One: Patient Safety Starts with You. The Rory Staunton Foundation was invited to speak as a compelling example of how a single, determined family can have a profound impact on patient safety for all Americans. Ciaran spoke about his family’s personal experience with sepsis and the work that the Rory Staunton Foundation has done on education and awareness, improving sepsis protocols in hospitals and advocating for increased federal resources to combat the sepsis public health crisis. While in the Hoosier state, Ciaran was interviewed by several network television news shows about sepsis and the campaign for for awareness and education.
Our family mourns the loss of Muhammad Ali who, like our son Rory, died from septic shock. Over 250,000 Americans die each year from sepsis; in New York State, sepsis regulations, called Rory’s Regulations, were enacted by Governor Cuomo in 2012 following Rory’s tragic death. The Staunton family extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Muhammad Ali.
Academic rigor, journalistic flair
Sepsis: the largely unknown condition that puts one million people in the hospital each year
Hallie Prescott, Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine, University of MichiganTheodore Iwashyna, Visiting Academic, The Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre, Monash University
Diagnosing sepsis isn’t easy.
Most Americans have never heard of it, but according to new federal data, sepsis is the most expensive cause of hospitalization in the US.
Sepsis is a complication of infection that leads to organ failure. One million patients are hospitalized for sepsis each year (across all types of health insurance). This is more than the number of hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke combined. Sepsis can be a particular risk for older people. In 2013 alone, 400,000 Medicare beneficiaries were hospitalized because of sepsis at a cost of US$5.5 billion.
Despite these grave consequences, fewer than half of Americans know what the word sepsis means.
What is sepsis and why is it so dangerous?
Sepsis a severe health problem sparked by your body’s reaction to infection. When you get an infection, your body fights back, releasing chemicals into the bloodstream to kill the harmful bacteria or viruses. When this process works the way it is supposed to, your body takes care of the infection and you get better. With sepsis, the chemicals from your body’s own defenses trigger inflammatory responses, which can impair blood flow to organs, like the brain, heart or kidneys. This in turn can lead to organ failure and tissue damage.
Sepsis can result from any type of infection. Most commonly, it starts as a pneumonia, urinary tract or intra-abdominal infection such as appendicitis. It is sometimes referred to as “blood poisoning,” but this is not an accurate term. Blood poisoning is an infection present in the blood, while sepsis refers to the body’s response to any infection, wherever it is.
Once a person is diagnosed with sepsis, she will be treated with antibiotics, IV fluids and support for failing organs, such as dialysis or mechanical ventilation. This usually means a person needs to be hospitalized, often in an ICU. Sometimes the source of the infection must be removed, as with appendicitis or an infected medical device.
Part of the problem we face with sepsis is agreeing on just what it is, from a medical standpoint. Experts last defined sepsis in 2001.
However, recent studies suggest the current definition does a poor job distinguishing sepsis from other diseases that can make one very sick. Many conditions can mimic sepsis, including severe allergic reactions, bleeding, heart attacks, blood clots and medication overdoses. Sepsis requires particular prompt treatments, so getting the diagnosis right matters.
The revolving door of sepsis care
As recently as a decade ago, doctors believed that sepsis patients were out of the woods if they could just survive to hospital discharge. But that isn’t the case – 40% of sepsis patients go back into the hospital within just three months of heading home, creating a “revolving door” that gets costlier and riskier each time, as patients get weaker and weaker with each hospital stay.
Post-Intensive Care Syndrome and frequent hospital re-admissions mean that we have dramatically underestimated how much sepsis care costs. On top of the $5.5 billion we now spend on initial hospitalization for sepsis, we must add untold billions in re-hospitalizations, nursing home and professional in-home care, and unpaid care provided by devoted spouses and families at home.
Unfortunately, progress in improving sepsis care has lagged behind improvements in cancer and heart care, as attention has shifted to the treatment of chronic diseases.
Rethinking treatment and care
Raising public awareness increases the likelihood that patients will get to the hospital quickly when they are developing sepsis. This in turn allows prompt treatment, which lowers the risk of long-term problems.
Beyond increasing public awareness, doctors and policymakers are also working to improve the care of sepsis once patients get to the hospital.
Several physician groups are collaborating to develop a new prediction tool called qSOFA. This instrument identifies patients with infection who are at high risk of death or prolonged intensive care. In contrast to existing methods for identifying sepsis, the new tool is data-driven. It was developed through examining millions of electronic patient records.
Researchers are also refining a mainstay of sepsis treatment – antibiotic therapy. These medications must be given within hours of diagnosis, but how long they are needed is unclear.
Preliminary research by us and our colleagues suggests that the risk for sepsis is temporarily increased when healthy bacteria are disturbed. This raises the intriguing possibility that diet or supplements aimed at restoring healthy bacteria may reduce the risk of future sepsis.
Life after sepsis
Even with great inpatient care, some survivors will still have problems after sepsis, such as memory loss and weakness.
Doctors are wrestling with how to best care for the growing number of sepsis survivors in the short and long term. This is no easy task, but there are several exciting developments in this area.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine’s THRIVE initiative is now building a network of support groups for patients and families after critical illness. THRIVE will forge new ways for survivors to work with each other, like how cancer patients provide each other advice and support.
As medical care is increasingly complex, many doctors contribute to a patient’s care for just a week or two. Electronic health records let doctors see how the sepsis hospitalization fits into the broader picture – which in turn helps doctors counsel patients and family members on what to expect going forward.
The high number of repeat hospitalizations after sepsis suggests another opportunity for improving care. We could analyze data about patients with sepsis to target the right interventions to each individual patient.
Better care through better policy
In 2012, New York State passed regulations to require every hospital to have a formal plan for identifying sepsis and providing prompt treatment. It is too early to tell if this is a strong enough intervention to make things better. However, it serves as a clarion call for hospitals to end the neglect of sepsis.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are also working to improve sepsis care. Starting in 2017, CMS will adjust hospital paymentsby quality of sepsis treatment. Hospitals with good report cards will be paid more, while hospitals with poor marks will be paid less.
To judge the quality of sepsis care, CMS will require hospitals to publicly report compliance with National Quality Forum’s “Sepsis Management Bundle.” This includes a handful of proven practices such as heavy-duty antibiotics and intravenous fluids.
While policy fixes are notorious for producing unintended consequences, the reporting mandate is certainly a step in the right direction.
Right now, sepsis care varies greatly from hospital to hospital, and patient to patient. But as data, dollars and awareness converge, we may be at a tipping point that will help patients get the best care, while making the best use of our health care dollars.