Early recognition of sepsis remains a critical goal in the pediatric emergency department (ED). Although this has led to the development of best practice alerts (BPAs) to facilitate screening and bundled care, research on how individual physicians interact with sepsis alerts and protocols is limited. This study aims to identify common reasons for acceptance and rejection of a sepsis BPA by pediatric emergency medicine (PEM) physicians and understand how the BPA affects physician management of patients with suspected sepsis.
This is a qualitative study of PEM physicians in a quaternary-care children's hospital. Data were collected through semistructured interviews and analyzed through an iterative coding process until thematic saturation was achieved. Member checking was completed to ensure trustworthiness. Thematic analysis of PEM physicians' rejection reasons in the electronic health record was used to categorize their responses and calculate each theme's frequency.
Twenty-two physicians participated in this study. Seven physicians (32%) relied solely on patient characteristics when deciding to accept the BPA, whereas the remaining physicians considered nonpatient factors specific to the ED environment, individualized practice patterns, and BPA design. Eleven principal reasons for BPA rejection were derived from 1406 electronic health record responses, with clinical appearance not consistent with shock being the most common. Physicians identified the BPA's configuration and incomplete understanding of the BPA as the biggest barriers to utilization and provided strategies to improve the BPA screening process and streamline sepsis care. Physicians emphasized the need for further BPA education for physicians and triage staff and improved transparency of the alert.
Physicians consider patient and nonpatient factors when responding to the BPA. Improved BPA functionality combined with measures to enhance screening, optimize sepsis management, and educate ED providers on the BPA may increase satisfaction with the alert and promote more effective utilization when it fires.