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Sepsis Study Pits EHR vs. Claims Data

By Tinker Ready  
   October 02, 2017

A study of sepsis cases using EHR rather than claims data finds little change in either incidence of infection or mortality over a four-year period.

Is the incidence of sepsis stable or is it increasing?

Awareness campaigns and clinical education programs would suggest a rise in the potentially fatal condition, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as a "complication caused by the body's overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection."

Now, a study based on data from electronic health records suggests that the rate of sepsis and it corresponding death rate may have stabilized between 2009 and 2014.

The study authors make the case that data from EHRs offers a more accurate measure of the condition than billing data, which indicates that sepsis rose more than 10% during the period, but that mortality declined.

Not that the findings of the study are anything to celebrate.

The research, published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concludes that 6% of all hospitalized patients had "clinical indicators" of sepsis in 2014.

More than 20% of them died in the hospital or were discharged to hospice.

Study author Chanu Rhee, MD, says the findings will give hospitals an objective way to measure sepsis incidence rates – something health systems have been trying hard to bring down.

Rhee said his hospital, Brigham and Women's in Boston, has numerous programs designed to educate staff about sepsis. "While we do that, we need objective ways to assess the impact of those efforts," he says.

"If we rely on diagnostic codes and claims data, we can easily get fooled about the impact we are having."

Tinker Ready is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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