Sickle Cell Patients Share Photos and Treats to Improve Care at Memphis Emergency Departments

On Tuesday, September 10, 2019, patients and quality improvement experts will be popping up at some local hospital emergency departments (EDs) to offer a tasty treat and a view of sickle cell disease (SCD) through patients’ eyes.  Project PopSickleCell is part of September’s National Sickle Cell Awareness Month and hopes to support doctors and nurses caring for sickle cell patients, particularly given the heightened awareness of pain management and the opioid epidemic.

Local sickle cell patients were asked to share revealing photographs of their lives with support from Qsource, a healthcare quality improvement and innovation consultancy.  Patients’ photographs are poignant and intended to help ED clinicians better understand the potential stigma, challenges, and barriers to appropriate care for patients living with SCD.

Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic blood disorder in the United States. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease occurs in approximately one out of every 365 Black or African-American births, and approximately one out of 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT). In Memphis and the Mid-South, the rate of disease is higher at one in every 287 live births. Approximately 2,000 African Americans in the greater Memphis area are affected by the disease.

Sickled red blood cells restrict blood flow, which may lead to extreme pain, infection, and an immediate requirement for treatment in hospital EDs. If not treated timely or appropriately, these individuals may require hospitalization.

Qsource has partnered with three health care systems representing a total of 27 hospitals, along with two local SCD centers and national experts, to educate ED providers and patients about best practices in caring for the SCD patient in crisis.

“Our goal is to help emergency department staff see sickle cell disease through their patients’ eyes and to remind providers that treatment of a sickle cell pain crisis is a time-sensitive condition,” said Qsource CEO, Dawn FitzGerald. “By using current National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines, we are helping ensure that EDs have systematic processes in place to treat SCD in the most effective manner,” she said.

Qsource is also encouraging sickle cell patients to seek regular care at a comprehensive sickle cell center that specializes in SCD and can reduce sickle cell complications, ED visits, and hospitalizations.

Local Popsicle purveyor Mempops is providing Popsicle treats for the PopSickleCell activation. In recognition of SCD Awareness Month, Mempops will also collect donations and tips in their three Memphis locations during the month of September and donate those proceeds to The Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee.

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