Sepsis responsible for more readmissions than conditions used to calculate readmission penalties

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Sepsis causes more hospital readmissions than any of the conditions used by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to levy readmission penalties, according to a new analysis.

A team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, as well as the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, analyzed data from a national readmissions database that covers nearly half of all inpatient stays in the United States.

Their findings, published Sunday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that 12.2% of readmissions were caused by sepsis. The conditions tracked by CMS — heart failure, pneumonia, COPD and heart attack — clocked in at 6.7%, 5%, 4.6% and 1.3%, respectively.

“If we, as a nation, place such high emphasis on reducing readmissions for the other four conditions, then we really need to look for opportunities to improve outcomes for sepsis, which has a higher rate of readmission than heart failure,” said lead researcher Florian B. Mayr, M.D., M.P.H. “People who survive an initial episode of sepsis often don't do well. They return to the hospital frequently, accrue new health conditions and have significantly elevated death rates.”

Sepsis was also found to cost more than the other conditions, with the average cost of readmission reaching $10,070. Pneumonia followed as the second-costliest condition, at $9,533 per readmission.