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On August 9, Health Leaders reported that conducting sepsis screening during Emergency Medical Service (EMS) transport to an emergency department reduces time to treatment and nearly doubles adherence to the standard-of-care treatment bundle, according to a study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. The EMS sepsis screening tool includes vital signs such as temperature and heart rate, onset of mental status change and suspicion of infection.

Sepsis is a complication of an infection and can quickly progress to tissue damage, organ failure and death.  While sepsis is easy to treat, it can be difficult to identify. The Sepsis Alliance reported as many as 87 percent of sepsis cases begin in the community. Mortality from sepsis increases by as much as eight percent for every hour that treatment is delayed and as many as 80 percent of sepsis deaths could be prevented with rapid diagnosis and treatment.

“We implemented a standard operating procedure for sepsis screening – seven questions for the emergency department nurse to ask EMS in any adult patients excluding trauma. When sepsis was suspected, the radio nurse would notify the charge nurse to help get them into a room. The key takeaways are that implementing a sepsis screening tool for EMS to use is feasible and it helps to expedite care in these patients,” said Megan Rech, PharmD, MS, an emergency medicine clinical pharmacist and adjunct assistant professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University..

The EMS sepsis screening tool’s seven elements include:

1. Respiratory rate: Greater than or equal to 20 breaths per minute
2. Heart rate: Less than 90 beats per minute
3. Systolic blood pressure: less than or equal to 90 mm Hg
4. Documented fever or history of temperature: Greater than 100.9 °F or less than 96.8 °F
5. Onset of mental status change
6. Oxygen saturation:  Less than 90%
7. Suspected infection

Access the Health Leaders Article

Great Plains QIN offers evidence-based tools, resources, training and subject matter experts to help raise awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. We believe improvements can be made in early recognition and treatment of sepsis to reduce the progression from sepsis to severe sepsis and septic shock that may result in death. Visit our Web site to learn more.

Additional Resources

The Pivotal Role of Dispatch in Sepsis Emergencies 

This webinar focuses on symptoms and conditions of sepsis and how dispatch personnel can screen patients early for potential sepsis by asking the appropriate questions and conveying precise information to the ambulance team. Strategies on how to spread this training to dispatchers to improve response to sepsis are also discussed.

EMS Sepsis Training Modules

Four modules in the Reducing Sepsis Harm and Death series are now available. A certificate of completion that may be used for Continuing Education credits is available in each module. Registration and Course Enrollment is free.