Shelley Schoepflin Sanders’ System Saves Lives Before They Need Saving

This year, the U.S. government started a program for health-care innovators. One innovator, Shelley Schoepflin Sanders implemented a modified early warning system in her home hospital to monitor multiple aspects of patients’ health.

Shelley Schoepflin Sanders’ System Saves Lives Before They Need Saving
Shelley Schoepflin

Photo by Michael Clinard

General Internist @ Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Portland, Oregon


Condition: Most rapid-response alert systems–think beeps that send doctors rushing to a patient’s room–react to just one vital sign, which makes it tough to monitor overall health.

Cure: New software can track pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate, and body temperature; analyze how they relate to one another; and alert doctors before a patient flatlines.

“We drew inspiration from the way engineers monitor airplanes. If the fuel line is bad but everything else works, the engine can probably make it through the flight. But if the fuel line is bad and the ignition is bad, it’s all much likelier to fail. When you look at everything at the same time, it’s easier to predict a problem. There have already been studies that show the program we’re using [called the Modified Early Warning System] saves lives, and it’s fairly easy to adopt. But we need more results to convince hospitals. If I can decrease mortality at St. Vincent’s by 20%, that’s saving 120 lives a year. I’m passionate about effecting that kind of change on a large scale. The thing about science, though, is that you can’t move faster than your data.”

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Jay Want

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