Introduction: Sepsis is a life-threatening emergency. Together, early recognition and intervention decreases mortality. Protocol-based resuscitation in the emergency department (ED) has improved survival in sepsis patients, but guideline-adherent care is less common in low-volume EDs. This study examined the association between provider-to-provider telemedicine and adherence with sepsis bundle components in rural community hospitals.
Methods: This is a prospective cohort study of adults presenting with sepsis or septic shock in community EDs participating in rural telemedicine networks. The primary outcome was adherence to four sepsis bundle requirements: lactate measurement within 3 hours, blood culture before antibiotics, broad-spectrum antibiotics, and adequate fluid resuscitation. Multivariable generalized estimating equations estimated the association between telemedicine and adherence.
Results: In this cohort (n = 655), 5.6% of subjects received ED telemedicine consults. The telemedicine group was more likely to be male and have a higher severity of illness. After adjusting for severity and chief complaint, total sepsis bundle adherence was higher in the telemedicine group compared with the non-telemedicine group (aOR 17.27 [95%CI 6.64-44.90], p < 0.001). Telemedicine consultation was associated with higher adherence with three of the individual bundle components: lactate, antibiotics, and fluid resuscitation.
Discussion: Telemedicine patients were more likely to receive initial blood lactate measurement, timely broad-spectrum antibiotics, and adequate fluid resuscitation. In rural, community EDs, telemedicine may improve sepsis care and potentially reduce disparities in sepsis outcomes at low-volume facilities. Future work should identify specific components of telemedicine-augmented care that improve performance with sepsis quality indicators.
Keywords: Sepsis; emergency department; sepsis bundle compliance; telemedicine.