Sepsis Alliance Responds to Findings That Sepsis is the Most Expensive Condition to Treat


With much of the country focused on the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the nation's leading sepsis patient advocacy group praised the findings of a recent study, which found that the most expensive condition treated in hospitals is sepsis, accounting for over $20 billion in annual costs to the U.S. healthcare system.

The findings were reported in an August 2013 statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The brief was titled "National Inpatient Hospital Costs: The Most Expensive Conditions by Payer, 2011," and was authored by Celeste M. Torio, PhD, MPH and Roxanne M. Andrews, PhD.

According to the study, sepsis resulted in an aggregate healthcare cost of $20.3 billion in 2011, accounting for U.S. hospital-related costs only. In fact, sepsis represented 5.2 percent of the national costs for all hospitalizations in 2011, resulting in nearly 1.1 million discharges that year from U.S. hospitals. Sepsis was also the most expensive condition billed to Medicare, accounting for 6.9 percent of all Medicare costs incurred in 2011.

"While Congress continues to debate the costs of Obamacare, this study's authors have done an extraordinary job in singling out sepsis as the No. 1 most expensive condition treated in hospitals," says Thomas Heymann, executive director of Sepsis Alliance. "No matter what side of the political aisle you're on, it's easy to see how raising sepsis awareness and improving patient outcomes could have an immediate and positive impact on our national healthcare system."

Sepsis, sometimes called blood poisoning by the general public, is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body's response to infection injures its own tissues and organs. Annually, sepsis kills 258,000 people in the United States alone, or one person every two minutes. Sepsis is a medical emergency that requires early diagnosis and rapid treatment with antibiotics and fluids.

While sepsis currently represents a $20 billion drain on the U.S. healthcare system, other recent studies have demonstrated that the rates of hospitalization due to sepsis are in fact rising. A September 2013 brief from the same agencies found the hospitalization rate for sepsis increased by a staggering 180 percent among adults ages 45-65 in 2011. Another September 2013 brief found that from 2005 to 2010 there was a 32 percent increase in the total rate of sepsis hospitalizations.

Even though hospitalizations are increasing, a majority of Americans still don't know what sepsis is or how to treat it. In a recently commissioned poll conducted by Harris Interactive, Sepsis Alliance found that fewer than one-half of all adult Americans have ever heard of sepsis. And the number is even lower in younger adults.

"This is reaching the level of a national emergency," says Dr. James O'Brien, Jr., medical director of Sepsis Alliance. "Early recognition of the symptoms of sepsis combined with prompt administration of fluids and antibiotics can make a huge difference not only in morbidity and mortality, but also in length of hospital stays and healthcare costs. Now more than ever, it is critical that we raise awareness of sepsis, which will reduce healthcare costs and, more importantly, save thousands of lives every year."

Sepsis Alliance congratulates Torio and Andrews for their recent publication, which can be viewed online at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website. To learn more, visit:

Source: Sepsis Alliance

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