Sepsis major driver of readmissions, mortality and costs

By David Ferguson

Sepsis, a leading cause of hospital readmissions and deaths, is difficult and expensive to treat. However unlike other leading causes of 30-day readmissions and patient deaths, the medical condition has not been singled out for special attention under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

While sepsis accounts for just as many readmissions and deaths as heart attacks and congestive heart failure, it costs health providers as much to treat as both of those disorders combined, according to a UCLA study published in Critical Care Medicine. 

"Our study shows how common sepsis readmissions are and some of the factors that are associated with higher risk of readmission after these severe infections," study author Dong Chang, M.D., of the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute, said in an announcement. "We show that sepsis readmissions have a significant impact on healthcare expenditures relative to other high-risk conditions that are receiving active attention and interventions."

Chang and his team analyzed data from acute care, non-federal hospitals in California and found that from 2009 to 2011, among adults 18 and older, there were a total of 240,198 admissions for sepsis, 193,153 for congestive heart failure and 105,684 for heart attacks.

For 30-day readmissions, sepsis accounted for 20.4 percent of cases. The rates for congestive heart failure were 23.6 percent and for heart attacks, 17.7 percent. UCLA estimated the annual cost of sepsis-related readmissions in California during the study period was $500 million, whereas congestive heart failure accounted for $229 million and heart attacks cost the system $142 million.

"Sepsis is a leading contributor to excess healthcare costs due to hospital readmissions," the researchers concluded. "Interventions at clinical and policy levels should prioritize identifying effective strategies to reduce sepsis readmissions."

Possible interventions include better training for hospital personnel to spot risk factors and early symptoms of sepsis, an emphasis on patient learning with regards to the importance of following aftercare instructions and taking all medications, and a global effort to better understand sepsis and develop new treatment strategies and medicines to combat the condition, FierceHealthcare previously reported. 

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the announcement

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