Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that New York State will lead the nation by becoming the first state to require all hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis, a medical condition which is the number one killer in hospitals and the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S.
These measures, which will be implemented through regulations issued by the Department of Health, will save an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 lives per year.
These initiatives, together called "Rory's Regulations," were announced on Tuesday with the participation of Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, whose 12-year old son, Rory, died of sepsis in April 2012, and who have advocated tirelessly since then to increase awareness about sepsis and to improve the delivery of pediatric care in hospitals.
Responding to the news, Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton said, "We wish to thank Governor Cuomo, the Health Commissioner Dr. Shah and all those who have worked so hard to make it possible to combat sepsis in a far more aggressive and urgent manner. We are also grateful for their focus on pediatric care especially in emergency rooms. Our son Rory was a battler for the underdog, who understood that helping those most in need was one of the most important lessons in life. We know his wish would be that no one suffer as he did and no family be left bereft when lives can be saved. We think these actions by the governor and the Health Commissioner are a huge step in the right direction."
At the same time, the Governor also announced that the Department of Health will issue proposed regulations to ensure that the unique needs of pediatric patients are respected by requiring, among other things, that hospitals communicate critical test results in plain language to parents before a child is discharged from the hospital.
The regulations also require hospitals to post a "Parents' Bill of Rights" letting parents and patients know of the important protections provided by these regulations. These sepsis and pediatric care reforms deliver on the commitment in the Governor's 2013 State of the State address that New York set a "gold standard" for patient care.
"By adopting the regulations proposed today, New York will lead the nation and establish a gold standard for patient care that other states should follow," Governor Cuomo said. "I commend those in the healthcare community who worked closely with our Department of Health to develop these new regulations, which are expected to save thousands of lives in New York. I extend my most sincere appreciation to the Staunton family for their strength and unwavering commitment to this vital effort."
State Health Commissioner Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H., said "Early detection of sepsis is a vital tool to treat this potentially life-threatening condition and save lives. Using evidence-based standards, we have identified key protocols to improve patient outcomes for sepsis. Further, we are taking additional steps to ensure that children's vital health information, including lab and test results, is communicated effectively to both parents and primary care providers. Thanks to Governor Cuomo, New York is a leader in implementing these critical measures."
Sepsis is a progressive shutdown of the body's organs and systems caused by systemic inflammation following infection that enters the blood or soft tissue. More than 750,000 Americans get sepsis each year, and over 200,000 die from it, making it the leading cause of death in hospitals and the eleventh leading cause of death overall in the United States, killing more people annually than AIDS, prostate cancer, and breast cancer combined. Those who don't die often experience life-altering consequences like missing limbs or organ dysfunction. Given its prevalence and consequences, sepsis is a huge driver of medical costs, accounting for an estimated $17 billion annually in national healthcare expenses.
Experts agree that the key to fighting sepsis is ensuring quick diagnosis and treatment within the "golden hour" when it can be most effective. Pilot initiatives in some hospital systems have shown great strides in decreasing sepsis mortality through effective implementation of what is basically a "checklist": a standardized protocol to facilitate quick and accurate diagnosis and fast and effective treatment as soon as any sign of sepsis arises. But no state has required these simple protocols be implemented at all hospitals.