Microsoft, AOI Track Hospital-Acquired Infections

A patient safety screening tool can improve early detection of the infections, with the potential to save thousands of lives. 

Microsoft partner Accent on Integration has rolled out a patient safety screening tool at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that can improve early detection of hospital-acquired infections, with the potential to save thousands of lives.

Sepsis is the body's systemic response to infection, which in severe cases can cause organ failure and death. It's estimated that 750,000 people die each year from sepsis, said Randy Fusco, chief technology officer and strategist for Microsoft's U.S. health care provider industry unit.

Normally, it's difficult to draw a direct correlation between a technology implementation and an improvement in the quality of patient care, Fusco said, since improved patient outcomes as a result of technology are so difficult to measure. However, in this instance, he said the positive impact of the tool on patient outcomes was obvious within the first few months.

The tool has been piloted in Vanderbilt's 23-bed neurological care unit, said Jeff McGeath, vice president and CTO for AOI. As of April 18, the technology had detected 14 patients with sepsis, McGeath said.

"If sepsis is identified early and proper treatment is given within one hour of detection, your survival rate is something like 80 percent," he said.

However, if detection is delayed more than six hours or a misdiagnosis is made, survival rates drop to about 42 percent, he said.

This tool is designed to be installed in an intensive care unit, and provides a set of indicators that alert caregivers of complications and adverse affects following surgery or hospital procedures. Tracking and screening for these indicators allow for early detection of patients who are at risk for sepsis, and then dictates treatment protocols for those patients based on independent treatment recommendations from the Surviving Sepsis Campaign and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Fusco said.

"It's often hard for caregivers to spot patterns in the chaos of an ICU, where you're getting flooded with test results, blood work results, vitals monitoring constantly," McGeath said.

Having a tool that can screen for patterns and alert caregivers early is crucial for providing quality care, and can mean the difference between a patient who survives the infection and one who does not.

The tool, built on Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server and the .Net framework with automated workflow capabilities, pulls patient vital signs and clinical information from various ICU monitoring systems and aggregates patient data into an electronic form. Most of the patient data is pre-populated, and caregivers are only faced with entering select clinical information on the patient's former status, current status and their mental alert status, Fusco said.

While patient safety is top of mind, hospitals are also faced with the staggering costs of treating hospital-acquired infections like sepsis, McGeath and Fusco said. Currently, treating sepsis accounts for 40 percent of a hospital's total ICU expenditures, or about $16.7 billion in the United States, McGeath said.

"That figure makes it easy to bring this tool in front of a [chief financial officer] and sell it," he said, adding that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid passed a ruling in August 2007 that curbs payments to hospitals for patients with certain hospital-acquired infections like sepsis.

McGeath also said the Patient Screening Safety Tool could be implemented in almost any hospital, and used to track and screen for a variety of conditions and diseases. The Patient Screening Safety Tool, Sepsis Module, was only the first iteration, he said.

Vanderbilt's implementation has been in place since early February, and the hospital is working on presenting the technology as a formal case study for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, Fusco and McGeath said.

Editor's Note: The New England Journal of Medicine states that if treatment is given within 1 hour of diagnosis, survival rates are about 80 percent, and if treatment is delayed more than 6 hours, survival rates drop to 42 percent. This information was incorrectly reported in a previous version of this story.