Public Policy

CMS sepsis measure a challenge to report

Hospitalists can champion sepsis-improvement efforts


In October 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services implemented its first meaningful policy to attempt for addressing sepsis.

The condition – one of the leading causes of mortality among hospitalized patients – afflicts more than a million people each year in the United States, and between 15% and 30% of them die. Sepsis is one of the leading drivers of hospital readmissions, sending more patients back to the hospital than heart failure, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.1

However, while providers seem to agree that time to address sepsis is past due, not everyone has embraced the Sepsis CMS Core Measure program, or SEP-1, as the means to best achieve it. This is, in part, because of discrepancies in how sepsis is defined, the burden of reporting, and what some consider to be arbitrary clinical requirements that may not correlate with better patient outcomes.

Dr. Jeremy Kahn University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Dr. Jeremy Kahn

“Sepsis is indeed a critical public health problem, and it’s appropriate and valuable that Medicare and other policy makers are focusing on sepsis,” said Jeremy Kahn, MD, professor of critical care medicine and health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh. “This was really the first approach at that … but at 85-pages long, it really is an enormous effort for hospitals to adhere to this measure.”

This is because of the tension between the “intense desire to improve sepsis outcomes” and the “incredible burden” of keeping up with the necessary documentation while also providing quality care, Dr. Kahn said.

In December 2017, Dr. Kahn helped lead a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine aimed at trying to understand hospital perceptions of SEP-1. Over the course of 29 interviews with randomly selected hospital quality leaders across the United States, including physicians and nurses, the results came as a surprise.2


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