It’s not every day that a governor mandates legislation to improve the timely diagnosis and treatment of Sepsis, a whole-body inflammation caused by an infection. But that is exactly what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did late last year in response to the highly publicized tragic death of Rory Staunton, a 12-year old child who succumbed to the condition. This heartbreaking case has brought increased attention to this little-known issue.
Sepsis is a serious medical emergency caused by a body’s overwhelming toxic response to an infection. When a person has an infection of any kind, even from a small cut or nick at a salon, the infection may enter the body where it can grow quickly. In most cases, the immune system battles the infection on its own. In other cases, however, the infection and the immune response trigger a systemic inflammation known as Sepsis, which—if not diagnosed and treated early and effectively—can interfere with the function of vital organs including the heart, liver, and kidneys, and lead to organ failure and even death.
Sepsis should be considered an emergency condition comparable to heart attack or stroke. Each year, severe Sepsis impacts at least 800,000 people in the U.S, killing 258,000 people a year. Each year it kills as many Americans as heart attacks and more than AIDS, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined. This translates to one person every two minutes…an astonishing figure. Additionally, surviving Sepsis can manifest a new set of severe consequences, including amputation and ongoing organ dysfunction like renal failure.Yet despite its prevalence and danger, only one out of three Americans has even heard of Sepsis.
We can reduce the catastrophic deaths, life-altering consequences, and high costs of Sepsis only by acting quickly to diagnose and treat it in the early minutes when symptoms arise. Unfortunately, traditional screening and diagnostic criteria are non-specific and require substantial clinical judgment in practical use. However, predictive analytics can help meet the challenge of simple, non-specific screening. The use of smart, sophisticated algorithms is encouraged to support the clinical team in rapid identification and early intervention.
As I attend a packed session today at the NYS MiniHIMSS 2014 Conference, I’m excited to hear from lead researcher, Ryan Arnold, MD, and how he is continuously monitoring available patient data from vital signs, pharmacy, lab and narrative notes for real-time Sepsis surveillance and sending those important “Code SEPSIS” as mobile alerts to provide immediate awareness of patients at risk. By keeping Sepsis top of mind and arming the care team with the right tools and capabilities we can save tens of thousands of lives!