Chuck Machner, medical intensive care unit/critical care unit nursing manager at UTMB, and Shawn Nishi, M.D., assistant professor in the division of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine, look at data in the MICU at John Sealy Hospital. Nishi and Machner were instrumental in UTMB’s efforts to reduce sepsis mortality, along with Gulshan Sharma, M.D., UTMB’s ICU director.The Texas Hospital Association recognized UTMB as the 2013 recipient of the Bill Aston Award for Quality in the academic institution or large teaching hospital/ health system category in recognition of its improvement of sepsis mortality with early identification and treatment. The award will be presented Feb. 13 at the THA 2014 Annual Conference and Expo in San Antonio. 

“Texas hospitals are at the leading edge of a changing health care system. Our leaders are enhancing outcomes and improving quality with innovative efforts and investments,” said Ted Shaw, THA president and chief executive officer. “We are proud to recognize the impact leaders at UTMB at Galveston have made to improve practices as well as the lives of the patients they serve.”
Kicking off the initiative in 2012, UTMB staff developed a comprehensive protocol for treating and reducing sepsis by implementing a multidisciplinary approach to identifying and eliminating the infection. A 70 percent drop in sepsis mortality resulted.
“The sepsis improvement initiative resulted in reductions that exceeded our goals. Our team utilized years of professional experience to bring about very real change for patients. By bringing our community of leaders together to solve a complex issue, we were able to devise a model that can scale across the system through the use of infection reduction protocols,” said Donna Sollenberger, executive vice president and CEO of UTMB Health System. “Innovation in patient safety initiatives is the result of the talented team of physicians, nurses, and other professional staff who work every day to bring the very best care to patients.”
Although only two percent of hospitalizations are sepsis-related, they account for 17 percent of hospital deaths, according to UTMB. Sepsis is a complex and potentially fatal condition that can start anywhere in the body. If untreated, it can spread throughout the body quickly. While difficult to detect, UTMB leaders were able to identify opportunities to thwart sepsis in patients at their primary point of entry to the facility, the emergency department. According to their research, approximately 85 percent of its sepsis-identified patients entered the hospital through the emergency department.
UTMB leaders developed a screening checklist for ED staff and trained them in the new workflow for sepsis patients. The research and new protocols armed key frontline staff with the resources necessary to empower them to screen patients at high risk for developing sepsis.
“When you get the right people in the room and give them tools they need to do the job, they can move mountains,” said Mark Kirschbaum, UTMB’s chief quality, safety and clinical information officer.