Sepsis remains one the most challenging and lethal illnesses in hospitals across the country. It's hard to diagnose, mimics other conditions and is complicated to treat.
Every year, sepsis strikes more than 1 million Americans and kills almost a quarter of those affected. It is also the most expensive medical illness in hospitals, with an annual cost of more than $16 billion.
The mortality rate of severe sepsis or septic shock is approximately 40%. Patients with sepsis have longer hospitalization stays and higher readmission rates than patients with other conditions. Those who survive may face devastating consequences, including permanent organ damage, cognitive impairment and physical disability.
Sepsis has remained a stubborn adversary—treatment guidelines are complex and can include dozens of steps—but hospitals have an opportunity to save lives and improve outcomes with a forward-thinking systemic approach anchored by a multidisciplinary team, technology that enables collaboration, actionable data and ongoing education.
Even with the high prevalence of sepsis, patients and their families don't know much, if anything, about the symptoms, and the diagnosis requires combining data from an exam, medical history and lab work.
It's important that we increase the level of education and raise sepsis awareness among patients and their families similar to how we've taught them to recognize heart attack and stroke. Also, we have to improve training of front-line clinical staff around recognizing sepsis, its physiology and the myriad ways it silently presents.
To make strides against sepsis nationwide, all hospitals and health systems need to create care processes and order sets that are easy to use, share best practices and enhance data collection and analysis to track clinical and financial outcomes.