How well are sepsis and a sense of urgency documented throughout the acute care chain in the Netherlands? A prospective, observational study

Gideon Latten*, Kirsten Hensgens, Eefje G P M de Bont, Jean W M Muris, Jochen W L Cals, Patricia Stassen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To investigate the documentation of sepsis and a sense of urgency throughout the acute care chain.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Emergency department (ED) in a large district hospital in Heerlen, The Netherlands.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants included patients ≥18 years with suspected sepsis who visited the ED during out-of-hours between September 2017 and January 2018 (n=339) and had been referred by a general practitioner and/or transported by ambulance. We defined suspected sepsis as suspected or proven infection and the presence of ≥2 quick Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment and/or ≥2 Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome criteria.

OUTCOME MEASURES: We analysed how often sepsis and a sense of urgency were documented in the prehospital and ED medical records. A sense of urgency was considered documented when a medical record suggested the need of immediate assessment by a physician in the ED. We described documentation patterns throughout the acute care chain and investigated whether documentation of sepsis or a sense of urgency is associated with adverse outcomes (intensive care admission/30-day all-cause mortality).

RESULTS: Sepsis was documented in 16.8% of medical records and a sense of urgency in 22.4%. In 4.1% and 7.7%, respectively, sepsis and a sense of urgency were documented by all involved professionals. In patients with an adverse outcome, sepsis was documented more often in the ED than in patients without an adverse outcome (47.9% vs 13.7%, p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Our study shows that in prehospital and ED medical records, sepsis and a sense of urgency are documented in one out of five patients. In only 1 out of 20 patients sepsis or a sense of urgency is documented by all involved professionals. It is possible that poor documentation causes harm, due to delayed diagnosis or treatment. Hence, it could be important to raise awareness among professionals regarding the importance of their documentation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number036276
Pages (from-to)e036276
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2020


  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands/epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sepsis/diagnosis
  • adult intensive & critical care
  • accident & emergency medicine
  • epidemiology

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