quality of life sign

Members of the Norfolk Fire Division recently met with the Quality Innovation Network-National Coordinating Center (QIN-NCC). The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has designated the QIN NCC to provide analytic and technical assistance to the 14 QIN-QIOs throughout the country. Great Plains Quality Innovation Network coordinated the site visit between the NCC and Norfolk Fire Division paramedics.

The purpose of the visit was to identify innovative practices that contribute to success and or improvement. Similar site visits are occurring in healthcare organizations and communities across the country. The intent is to spread innovative practices and highlight partnerships which are improving care and health outcomes. A community approach to sepsis identification and treatment was the focus of this site visit.

Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an infectious process that without rapid diagnosis and treatment can quickly progress to tissue damage, organ failure and death. 270,000 Americans die each year from sepsis. Alarmingly, mortality increases 8 percent with each hour an individual does not receive treatment for sepsis. In rural areas, like those that surround Norfolk, this is especially problematic as the nearest hospital may be 90 miles away. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of sepsis is critical knowledge that can save lives.

Another contributing factor to the complexity is the symptoms of sepsis may not be recognized immediately or at all. The symptoms are often attributed to other diagnoses contributing to delayed treatment, increasing the risk. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of sepsis is critical knowledge for patients and their families, along with Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

“Sepsis has always been a problem, but we have recently been made more aware of the severity and the risks associated. When the Great Plains QIN team approached us with a training opportunity, we knew it was the right thing to do. The Norfolk Fire Division is on board as well as several EMS units from surrounding towns; most of which are volunteers. Our EMS department lacked a protocol specific to sepsis. We now have a plan in place for sepsis identification, communication and transportation. We have engaged our medics in the training process. We are also partnering with other community providers, including the fire department, nursing homes, urgent care centers and pharmacies, to discuss what we can do to improve,” stated Travis Reich, Lieutenant, Paramedic.

“EMS professionals are critical partners as they are often the first responding to individuals with sepsis. They can help prevent sepsis infection or death by knowing the risk factors, identifying the symptoms and initiating life-saving treatment,” stated Krystal Hays, DNP, RN, CDP, CADDCT, RAC-CT; Quality Improvement Advisor with the Great Plains QIN.

“With the help of the Great Plains QIN, we have established a community coalition. We learn from one another every time we come together; everyone is motivated for the next step. It is nice to see awareness and education at all levels. The data is also important; we start each community meeting with sepsis data. This data keeps us grounded on the reality of the impact and how many persons are affected by sepsis,” added Reich.

Lieutenant Bob Nelson indicated they are offering a paramedic refresher course in the Spring. “Prehospital medicine has changed dramatically over my 30-year career. We know that by identifying life-threatening events and interventions can and will save lives,” added Nelson.

Hays added, “Norfolk is one community participating in the project where patients with sepsis will benefit from early diagnosis and treatment. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Norfolk community. The commitment of the EMS team and the network of healthcare providers is inspiring and the knowledge gained is tremendous. We know, as a result of this committed effort, lives will be saved.”

Great Plains QIN received special funding to work in one rural geographical location (in each of our 4 states) to increase awareness and early recognition of sepsis. Tthe Great Plans QIN team is providing evidence-based tools, resources, training and subject matter experts to reach rural communities and raise awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. Visit our Web site to learn more.