The Indiana Hospital Association's Patient Safety Center is working to reduce the annual number of deaths from sepsis.
Most people know the early signs of heart attacks and strokes, but they aren't as familiar with sepsis, a medical condition that kills more than 258,000 people in the U.S. each year.
"The public now knows if you have a stroke or a heart attack, you need to get treatment," said Carolyn Konfirst, Indiana Patient Safety Center clinical director. "Sepsis really is flying under the radar. I don't know that everyone recognizes that it's time-sensitive. . It's not something that you can delay."
The medical condition occurs when the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream in an effort to fight off infection, but the process spurs an inflammatory response that can lead to potentially deadly complications, such as organ failure and tissue damage.
In 2008, the Patient Safety Center started tracking the percentage of people diagnosed with sepsis who die from it amid concerns about the high death rate from the illness, The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1UNCgrX ) reported.
About 15.2 percent of people admitted to hospitals in Indiana with sepsis died from the condition in 2008. The rate dropped to about 6.1 percent in 2015.
A national study published in 2014 found a sepsis mortality rate of 10.4 percent.
The Patient Safety Center's annual meeting earlier this month focused on bringing those numbers down even further. Collaborating and sharing best practices to identify and successfully treat sepsis early have helped the state's hospitals decrease their sepsis mortality rates, according to local patient safety advocates.
"It has been a consistent focus. It hasn't been 'let's focus on this and then we will focus on that.' We're going to focus on this until we get it fixed," said Anita Keller, chief nursing officer of Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin.
Keller said Johnson Memorial is focusing on increasing emergency room triage nurses' awareness of sepsis symptoms in an effort to catch cases earlier.
"It's really moving your hospital or health care system to a culture of recognition or treatment," she said.
The Patient Safety Center also is focusing on increasing public awareness of sepsis.