Antibiotic Delays and Feasibility of a 1-Hour-From-Triage Antibiotic Requirement: Analysis of an Emergency Department Sepsis Quality Improvement Database

Michael R Filbin, Jill E Thorsen, Tracey M Zachary, James C Lynch, Minoru Matsushima, Justin B Belsky, Thomas Heldt, Andrew T Reisner
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2020, 75 (1): 93-99

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We identify factors associated with delayed emergency department (ED) antibiotics and determine feasibility of a 1-hour-from-triage antibiotic requirement in sepsis.

METHODS: We studied all ED adult septic patients in accordance with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock National Quality Measures in 2 consecutive 12-month intervals. During the second interval, a quality improvement intervention was conducted: a sepsis screening protocol plus case-specific feedback to clinicians. Data were abstracted retrospectively through electronic query and chart review. Primary outcomes were antibiotic delay greater than 3 hours from documented onset of hypoperfusion (per Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock National Quality Measures) and antibiotic delay greater than 1 hour from triage (per 2018 Surviving Sepsis Campaign recommendations).

RESULTS: We identified 297 and 357 septic patients before and during the quality improvement intervention, respectively. Before and during quality improvement intervention, antibiotic delay in accordance with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services measures occurred in 30% and 21% of cases (-9% [95% confidence interval -16% to -2%]); and in accordance with 2018 Surviving Sepsis Campaign recommendations, 85% and 71% (-14% [95% confidence interval -20% to -8%]). Four factors were independently associated with both definitions of antibiotic delay: vague (ie, nonexplicitly infectious) presenting symptoms, triage location to nonacute areas, care before the quality improvement intervention, and lower Sequential [Sepsis-related] Organ Failure Assessment scores. Most patients did not receive antibiotics within 1 hour of triage, with the exception of a small subset post-quality improvement intervention who presented with explicit infectious symptoms and triage hypotension.

CONCLUSION: The quality improvement intervention significantly reduced antibiotic delays, yet most septic patients did not receive antibiotics within 1 hour of triage. Compliance with the 2018 Surviving Sepsis Campaign would require a wholesale alteration in the management of ED patients with either vague symptoms or absence of triage hypotension.

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