In previous posts, I have noted the heavy toll that sepsis takes on patients and their families. In addition to the human toll, there is also a significant financial burden. With a national price tag of $24 billion a year, the financial cost of sepsis cannot be ignored. My colleague, Dr. Steve Claypool, has written about how a technology driven approach to sepsis, supported by change management, significantly improves patient outcomes. The same strategy can also translate into improvements to hospital financials as well.

Sepsis costs are large and growing, let’s look at some key numbers:

  • From 2011 to 2013, the cost of sepsis care in the U.S. increased by nearly $3.4 billion.
  • In 2011, sepsis resulted in 722,000 hospital discharges, which accounted for 9 percent of all Medicaid inpatient hospital costs and 5.2 percent of all hospitalization costs.
  • Between 2008 and 2012, the number of sepsis-related discharges increased by 36 percent.

The surging financial strain can be attributed in part to the extended length of stay (LOS) for sepsis patients, particularly those in critical care units, which have a substantially higher cost per day. On average, patients with sepsis have an LOS that is 75 percent longer than other hospitalized patients. In an analysis of hospitals between 2008 and 2012, the hospitals that averaged the greatest reduction in LOS for sepsis (8.51 days to 7.08 days) also documented a $1,616 decline in their average cost per case.

Early identification and treatment are crucial to reducing sepsis mortality, LOS and, by extension, the cost of treatment. One key to reaching these goals lies in the patient data in hospitals’ existing clinical systems. By leveraging tools, such as electronic surveillance and rules-based clinical decision support (CDS), clinicians can receive accurate, real-time alerts and medical advice that allow them to more effectively identify sepsis early and begin timely treatments. At Huntsville Hospital in Alabama, the clinicians were able to use POC Advisor to reduce LOS in the ICU for sepsis patients. Using these types of innovative tools will provide the opportunity for healthcare facilities to reduce costs, while improving patient outcomes for sepsis.