A clinical pathway to improve early recognition and management of sepsis, supported by the Better Care Victoria innovation fund, has saved 52 lives in four months.

Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction in response to an infection that affects 27-30 million people every year. It causes up to nine million deaths worldwide, and those who survive may live with long-term consequences such as loss of digits or limbs, impacts on memory and concentration, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Early recognition and treatment of sepsis are key to preventing these consequences and to saving lives. 

Over 2016-17, with funding from the Better Care Victoria innovation fund, Melbourne Health adapted a clinical pathway that was first developed at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to help its staff identify and manage sepsis earlier and more consistently. This was accompanied by a communications plan to increase awareness of sepsis among all hospital staff and a multidisciplinary education package for clinicians. 

Following the success of Melbourne Health’s pilot at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Safer Care Victoria, with continued funding from the Better Care Victoria innovation fund, scaled the program across 11 Victorian health services using a semi-collaborative model of learning, leading to significant improvements in patient outcomes.

Over four months of implementation, the program now known as the 'Think sepsis. Act fast.' initiative:

  • saved 52 lives
  • avoided 96 intensive care unit admissions
  • reduced total hospital length of stay by more than 3,780 bed days
  • saved $11.7 million based on reduced length of stay and reduction in cost
  • demonstrated a six-fold return on investment.

“These results are just a glimpse of what can be achieved through shared learning and collaboration,” Safer Care Victoria’s project lead Kelly Sykes said.

“We look forward to extending this work across all Victorian health services to continue saving lives and enhancing patient outcomes.”

Safer Care Victoria's Emergency Care Clinical Network also worked with 32 emergency departments and urgent care centres in the past year to adopt a standard way to identify and manage sepsis. As a result, they saw 88 per cent improved recognition of sepsis, and 58 per cent improvement in timely administration of IV antibiotics.

World Sepsis Day is on 13 September. For more information, visit worldsepsisday.org.