Hospital-acquired sepsis cases drop, but treatment costs rise, report finds

By | March 24, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • Healthcare consulting company Premier reported a 15% drop in hospital-associated sepsis cases among member hospitals over the past three years.
  • But the news is not all good. Patients who develop sepsis in the hospital are 10% more likely to experience the worst kind, septic shock, raising the average per-case cost of treating the infection by 20% to $ 70,000, according to a new white paper from the company.
  • The findings — based on discharge data from 870 hospitals between September 2015 and October 2018 — also show an 8% decline in sepsis-related mortality and 7% drop in readmission rates.

Dive Insight:

More than 1.7 million U.S. adults are diagnosed with sepsis each year and 270,000 die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, costing hospitals more than $ 24 billion annually.

The vast majority (92.5%) of people who acquire sepsis get it outside the hospital, Premier’s analysis shows. Due to early identification and treatment efforts, those cases tend to be less costly to treat at around $ 20,000 — an amount that held steady during the study period, according to the white paper.

Meanwhile, the average cost to treat hospital-acquired sepsis rose from $ 58,000 to $ 70,000 from 2015 to 2018, adding $ 1.5 billion in aggregate spending for hospitals. 

“While significant progress has been made, there is opportunity to reexamine protocols for patients who develop sepsis after being admitted for another medical reason, as this suggests a complication of care,” Madeleine Biondolillo, vice president of quality innovation at Premier, said in a statement.

Premier attributes the gains to performance improvement efforts such as customized data reports to identify areas of opportunity and development and sharing of best practices. 

Since 2008, about 350 collaborative member hospitals reduced sepsis cases by more than 36% and sepsis mortality by over 18%, saving 200,000 lives and $ 18 billion.

To reduce the incidence and severity of sepsis cases, Premier recommends hospitals focus on a few areas of improvement: leveraging data and analytics capabilities to improve clinical efficiency and enhance sepsis care across service lines; deploying “clinician-enabling tools” that improve identification of at-risk patients and point-of-care decision-making, boosting lab and pharmacy performance; and promoting a culture that connects quality improvement, outcomes and cost controls. 

“Leaders should ask for feedback and comments from those at the point-of-care and share data with them that shows care variation or near-misses,” according to the paper. “By approaching frontline staff, asking for their input on improving sepsis care and empowering them with performance data, leaders help ensure buy-in and teamwork surrounding any new processes that are ultimately rolled out.”

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