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Hospital Takes on Septicemia, Saves 36 Lives

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 25, 2012

Around Opelika, AL, a city of about 26,000 an hour's drive from Montgomery, 36 people are alive today who otherwise would have died after receiving suboptimal care at East Alabama Medical Center.

That's a harsh admission. But executives with the 314-bed hospital say they know this is true because three years ago, they joined a project with 156 other health systems to share quality data for comparison. The data revealed that patient mortality rates at EAMC were higher than expected, acknowledges hospital CEO Terry Andrus.

"That was obviously something we did not want on our marquee," he says. "But working with other hospitals, we found that care of septicemia was the thing we needed to work on."

EAMC discovered what some other hospitals in the Premier Quest collaborative already knew: It needed to have the emergency department  team be much more attentive to a combination of symptoms: high fever, high heart rate, mental status changes, and high blood pressure.

By the third year of the program in 2010, Andrus says, the hospital identified "36 lives [that] were saved because we took this sepsis initiative and put in this bundle.  That is, 36 people that probably would otherwise have died did not die."

Premier is a quality improvement and healthcare purchasing alliance. The groups says that nationwide, 157 member hospitals saved $4.5 billion and 24,820 lives under the Quest program.

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