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WellSpan Health is Pennsylvania’s top health care organization, winning one of the highest safety awards in healthcare.

WellSpan Health has achieved a preeminent national award in patient safety and quality. It is the first Pennsylvania health system to receive the prestigious honor in 15 years.

The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum announced this week that WellSpan has won a 2019 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award for its Central Alert Team, an innovative program that works to quickly detect and treat sepsis. It is one of the highest safety awards in healthcare.

, a life-threatening medical emergency.

The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. The National Quality Forum sets national standards for healthcare performance measurement. The pair founded the Eisenberg Awards in 2002 to recognize the best examples of individual, local and national efforts that improve patient safety and healthcare quality.

The awards were to have been announced in March during the National Quality Forum Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic however. The last Pennsylvania health system to win an Eisenberg Award was the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2004.

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Prior winners include Mayo, others

Previous award winners have included well-known healthcare organizations across the country, including the Mayo Clinic..

“WellSpan teams are reimagining healthcare by providing nation-leading quality and safety for sepsis care,” said WellSpan CEO Roxanna Gapstur. “This prestigious honor is a testament to their innovation while finding a better way to improve the health of our communities.”

WellSpan Health received the Eisenberg Award in the category of Local Level Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. That category recognizes a project or initiative focusing on making an impact at the local community, organization or regional level. 

WellSpan’s Sepsis Central Alert Team program earned the award as an example of successful system changes or interventions that make care safer or advocate on a patient’s behalf.  It began in 2017 with a group of registered nurses with critical care and emergency medicine experience. They continuously monitor patients for signs of sepsis at fiveWellSpan hospitals from a remote “bunker.” 

The team is notified when WellSpan’s electronic health record system detects symptoms of sepsis in a patient’s vital signs. Those include temperature, heart rate, and lab results. When notified of these markers, the team quickly contacts the patient’s physician or nurse so they can determine if the patient may be septic or clinically unstable. The doctor or nurse then considers administering life-saving drugs, fluids and other interventions.

“The team is a marriage of real-time electronic healthcare data and a highly skilled clinical team,” said Dr. Steven Delaveris, WellSpan’s vice-president of medical services. “That powerful combination results in WellSpan hospitals having some of the best survival rates for sepsis in the country. In real terms, this team is saving lives.”

Lives saved

The team has saved an estimated 350 lives since its inception. It dramatically shortens the time it takes WellSpan to respond to sepsis cases, speeding up the time that patients receive lifesaving medications. Early identification and screening times improved from 67 minutes to 12 minutes.

As a result, the percentage of WellSpan patients who receive both timely and effective sepsis care is better than both state and national averages.

WellSpan York Hospital now boasts a sepsis survival rate in the top 1% of its peers nationally. 

The health system’s work in this area has attracted the attention of healthcare providers from across the country. Leaders share sepsis best practices with hospital and health system leaders from Massachusetts, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Virginia and other states.

The Eisenberg Awards, given in three categories, bring together the quality community to recognize groundbreaking initiatives that are consistent with the aims of the National Quality Strategy. That includes better care, healthy people and communities, and smarter spending.

“This year’s Eisenberg Award recipients have demonstrated both a positive impact on the patients they serve as well as fulfilling the quality community’s mission to ensure that care is measured and can be improved,” said Shantanu Agrawal, president and CEO, National Quality Forum. 

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