Kaiser sepsis program saves $36 million

Kaiser Permanente's hospitals in Northern California have saved an average of more than $2 million each since launching an aggressive program to more speedily diagnose and treat sepsis.

Introduced in late 2008 at 17 hospitals in Northern California, Kaiser's sepsis prevention program is based on a six-step "bundle" of diagnostic and treatment tools. They include screening all emergency room patients who undergo blood testing for levels of lactate, which can be a sepsis indicator; providing a regimen of antibiotics through a central line catheter inserted through the patient's clavicle; rigorous testing of a patient's blood volume and arterial pressure; and performing a second lactate test within 12 hours of the first test.

As a result of the program, the mortality rate for Kaiser's Northern California sepsis patients has dropped from at least 25 percent to 11 percent, while the average length of stay has been cut from nine days to six. The resulting savings to date has been $36 million, according to Barbara Crawford, Kaiser Northern California's vice president of quality and regulatory services.

Kaiser's sophisticated electronic medical record system has allowed it to keep close tabs on its cost savings, Mary Lopez, senior vice president of quality initiatives for the Hospital Council of Northern California, told FierceHealthFinance. "Their return on investment is great," she said.

The Hospital Council participates in a regional effort to fight sepsis and improve overall quality of care called the Beacon Collaborative. Lopez said Beacon's member hospitals have also had success in cutting sepsis deaths and lengths of stay, but could not disclose specific numbers.

Kaiser Permanente plans to fully roll out its anti-sepsis initiative to its Southern California hospitals in October. Six of that region's 13 hospitals currently have a sepsis program in place.

To learn more:
- here's a Payers and Providers article
- see Beacon Collaborative's Sepsis website