Most Americans have never heard of sepsis, but the illness is a leading cause of hospital deaths. It costs the nation tens of billions of dollars every year, and doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are fully aware of the dangers. Still, they don’t all respond with the same levels of urgency and care.
According to a 2018 article in Becker’s Hospital Review, Arizona’s hospitals ranked among the nation’s worst for sepsis care. The state’s bottom 10 ranking was based on the percentage of patients who received proper care. The national average was only 49%, but Arizona slipped four points lower to 44%. This means Arizona’s hospitals responded poorly in 56% of all sepsis cases.
When the hospitals are at fault
A study published in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open recently explored the preventability of sepsis-related deaths in United States hospitals. Its authors found that most of the 300 recorded deaths were unpreventable, but hospitals could probably have prevented 3.7% of them. The study found that hospitals might have been able to prevent as many as 36 of the deaths, and it looked at the ways that hospitals had failed to offer life-saving care. These included:
- Delayed diagnosis and treatment
- Using antibiotics to which the infections were resistant
- Delayed actions to prevent further infection
Additionally, the study found that in several cases the hospitals might have even helped infect their patients:
- Some patients got their infections while in the hospital
- Some developed sepsis after problems with other procedures
- Some developed sepsis from complications related to bad medication
The authors noted that most sepsis-related deaths were tied to other serious problems like terminal cancer. But they also noted that patients received suboptimal care in 68 of the study’s 300 deaths—a staggering 22.7%.
There’s no second chance
It’s critical that hospitals treat sepsis quickly and correctly. They need to prioritize their responses, and they need everyone from doctors and nurses to front-office staff to play their part. When doctors react with prompt diagnoses and treatments, they can save lives. Unfortunately, patients don’t always get the attention they need, and Americans continue to suffer and die from sepsis and septic shock.