Doctor and nurse check patient's results.

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiative to better treat sepsis in hospitals could help long-term care communities launch and optimize sepsis care programs.

The Hospital Sepsis Program will support hospitals as they organize staff and pinpoint resources to create a sepsis program that quickly identifies and cares for people who have sepsis. 

Sepsis happens when the body overreacts to a viral or bacterial infection. It can set off tissue damage, organ failure and even lead to death. This complex condition isn’t always easy to recognize. In order to survive, the person must have a prompt response. 

At least 1.7 million people in the United States develop sepsis each year, and at least 350,000 adults who develop sepsis during their hospitalization die or are moved into hospice, the CDC estimates. 

A CDC survey published on Aug. 25 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 73% of hospitals have a sepsis committee. But only 55% have a dedicated time for sepsis program leaders to convene.

“We know there’s an opportunity to improve the support and structure of sepsis programs in hospitals across the country, and CDC is ready to help hospitals measure the success of their programs as they implement these core elements,” CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, said at a news briefing.

“We know that programs dedicated to the care of patients with sepsis have been successful in saving more lives, reducing the amount of time patients need to stay in the hospital, and cutting healthcare costs,” Cohen continued. “CDC believes that sepsis programs in every hospital, regardless of size, location and resources, can strengthen the quality of care delivered to these patients and ensure their survival.

An interdepartmental sepsis group should “look something like hospitals’ other code teams,” Chris DeRienzo, the chief physician at the American Hospital Association, said at a news briefing on Aug. 24.

He likened the teams to a “well-oiled NASCAR pit crew,” coordinated to act quickly at the first signs of sepsis.