Sepsis and Hospital Readmissions

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Sepsis and Hospital Readmissions

What nurses can do about this menace

By Working Nurse
to Save
What’s the No. 1 cause of hospital readmissions? According to the latest national statistics, it’s not congestive heart failure or pneumonia, but sepsis.

Sepsis refers the organ failure that occurs when the body’s immune system sends too many chemicals into the bloodstream to fight an infection.

Readmission Ratings

A recent report compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) examined data on hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge for the years 2009–2013.

The authors found that in 2013 alone, septicemia was responsible for 191,156 readmissions — 43.8 percent more than pneumonia, which ranked only third.

The cost of those readmissions was more than $3.1 billion, but that is only a fraction of all sepsis-related healthcare costs. In fact, HCUP has previously reported that sepsis is the single most expensive of all conditions treated in hospitals. The CDC says that about 258,000 Americans die of sepsis each year.

Need for Action

Thomas Heymann, executive director of the patient advocacy group Sepsis Alliance, hopes these grim figures will serve as a call to arms. “Fewer than half of Americans have heard of sepsis and many hospitals do not have sepsis protocols in place to ensure prompt recognition, proper treatment and successful post-discharge outcomes,” he says, characterizing sepsis as “an epidemic.”

“Hospitals need to better understand the high risk of readmission among survivors of sepsis and to provide better transitions of care to improve recovery,” adds Sepsis Alliance Medical Director and Board Chair Jim O’Brien, M.D., M.S. “Survivors and families need to understand that they remain at risk for poorer outcomes even after surviving sepsis.”  

Sepsis Alliance offers a variety of fact sheets and other resources for patients and survivors at

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