More than a million people in the United States develop sepsis each year and more than 250,000 deaths are linked to it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 80 percent of sepsis cases are community-acquired, meaning people get them from common places like their homes, schools and elsewhere. Sepsis is a body’s overwhelming response to infection. It typically occurs when germs from an infection get into the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. To fight the infection, the body mounts an immune response that may trigger inflammation that damages tissues and interferes with blood flow. Any infection can lead to sepsis, from a manicure gone wrong, food poisoning or a simple urinary tract infection.
Patient advocates and policymakers agree that patients themselves are key to improving the prevention and early detection of sepsis. Without rapid diagnosis and treatment, sepsis can quickly cause tissue damage, organ failure and even death. For every hour that sepsis goes untreated, the risk of death increases by 8 percent making early diagnosis and treatment critical. Individuals are encouraged to be vigilant and not assume healthcare providers have it covered. They are advised if they or someone they’re caring for has symptoms of sepsis, to ask the healthcare provider directly: “Do you think it might be sepsis?”
Nikki Medalen and Lisa Thorp, Quality Improvement Specialists for the Great Plains Quality Innovation Network in North Dakota, recently hosted a movie theater themed booth at a consumer event featuring the video Sepsis 911. Many who viewed the video shared their gratitude for educating the public on this topic. Lisa Thorp stated, “One couple was eager to watch the video because they lost a friend to sepsis last fall. They thanked me profusely for educating people and shared how important it was for people to receive this information. Another viewer shared her story about spending several days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for sepsis caused by kidney stones.”
“People are eager for this information,” said Nikki Medalen. “When they find out what we are doing, they are so thankful – especially those who know what sepsis is – they know how critical it is that people recognize the symptoms as an emergency.”
Sepsis information is readily available for the public. Access these tools on our Web site:
The CDC also has patient education fact sheets and brochures available on their Get Ahead of Sepsis web page.
Voices of Healthcare, the patient advisory council for the Great Plains QIN in North Dakota, also focused on sepsis as their meeting topic recently with education provided by Nikki Medalen. Each member was encouraged to share their familiarity with sepsis and relayed stories of how their lives or the lives of their loved ones were affected by sepsis. Medalen stated, “It amazed me to hear how many people in this concentrated group have been affected by sepsis. It helps emphasize the magnitude of the reach of sepsis and creates an even greater urgency to educate the public.”
The Financial Burden of Sepsis
For Medicare nationwide, septicemia (sepsis) is the principal discharge diagnosis, exceeding 700,000 hospital discharges a year, and is the costliest diagnosis condition, consuming 6.9 percent of Medicare payments annually. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) ranks sepsis as number one for all-payer hospital discharges, exceeding one million discharges a year and representing 5.2 percent of all healthcare costs.
What’s Happening in the Great Plains QIN Region?
Great Plains QIN received special funding to work in one rural geographical location in each state to increase awareness and early recognition of sepsis. We believe EMS professionals are critical partners in helping prevent sepsis infection or death by knowing the risk factors, identifying the symptoms and initiating life-saving treatment. Our team is providing evidence-based tools, resources, training and subject matter experts to reach rural communities and increase public awareness of the signs, symptoms and contributing factors to sepsis. To learn more about our work in the region, click here.