Carolinas HealthCare System
Alan Heffner, MD

Alan Heffner, MD
Medical Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Carolinas Medical Center

Code Sepsis: System Sets Aim on Sepsis Treatment

Carolinas HealthCare System is implementing an initiative to reduce complications and deaths associated with severe sepsis and septic shock, conditions of which are associated with 20-35 percent mortality across the nation.

Code Sepsis is the first aim of the initiative, which fosters early systematic screening and identification of patients with high-risk infection.

Since launching the program in 2013, 15 care locations across Carolinas HealthCare System have joined the effort. Unlike other hospitals and health systems nationwide, the System has successfully developed an organized, multidisciplinary approach to addressing this difficult-to-treat condition.

“Our organized approach encourages every hospital to recognize and use Code Sepsis for high-risk infected patients,” said Alan Heffner, MD, medical director of the medical intensive care unit at Carolinas Medical Center. “That means quickly identifying patients based on our Code Sepsis criteria and rapidly deploying evidence-based practices embedded in our Code Sepsis pathway.”

The project offers a good example of how administrators, clinicians, information technology support and data analytics teams work together to construct and implement an evidence-based clinical pathway that are coupled with transparent process and outcome reporting metrics.

“These are among the sickest patients we see and nearly all of them are admitted through the emergency department (ED),” said Michael Runyon, MD, director of emergency medicine research at Carolinas Medical Center. “Optimal outcomes depend on early identification of sepsis, rapid resuscitation in the ED and coordinated transition of care by emergency physicians and nurses to their counterparts in intensive care unit. This has shown to save lives at Carolinas Medical Center over several years, and the initiative will ensure that the same level of state-of-the-art is available to our patients throughout the System.” 
Future aims of the initiative will focus on lower-risk patients in attempt to expedite and streamline care, reduce hospital length of stay and readmission.

This collaborative work is being systematically tracked at our centers via newly developed emergency medical records tools and dedicated sepsis coordinators. Integration and standardization of best practices, like Code Sepsis, can help pave the way to outcomes success at Carolinas HealthCare System.

Care locations currently part of the System’s sepsis initiative:

  • Carolinas Medical Center (CMC)
  • CMC-Mercy
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville
  • Carolinas HealthCare System University
  • Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Union
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Lincoln
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Cleveland
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Stanly
  • Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge-Morganton
  • Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge-Valdese
  • CMC-Huntersville
  • CMC-Waxhaw
  • CMC-Steele Creek