Hospitalizations for Severe Sepsis in California

In 2022, over 300,000 severe sepsis patients were treated in California hospitals. About 16%, over 47,000, of those died in hospital. Hospital charges for sepsis totaled $84 billion in California, based on total charges for all sepsis.

Why Hospitalizations for Severe Sepsis

Sepsis is a preventable, life-threatening medical condition, which if not treated timely and properly, can result in a severe condition with multiple organ failure (severe sepsis) and death. Sepsis impacts approximately 1.7 million people annually in the United States. Hospitalizations for sepsis are among the most expensive (CDC: What is Sepsis?).

In 2022, COVID-19 may have had an impact on severe sepsis cases. Among severe sepsis patients, 18.2 percent had a diagnosis of COVID-19, and among severe sepsis patients who died in the hospital, 22.7 percent had a COVID-19 diagnosis (Effects of COVID-19 on Hospital Utilization Trends; HCAI Patient Discharge Data).

The first data visualization presents patient information on in-hospital and 30-day mortality, length of stay, charges, and expected payers for severe sepsis hospitalizations. The second data visualization presents hospital characteristics including hospital size, location, ownership, and designation as a teaching facility.

Key Findings – Severe Sepsis Patient Information

  • From 2015 to 2022, the number of severe sepsis cases increased 54 percent, while the number of in-hospital deaths for severe sepsis remained constant until 2019. The number of deaths then increased 60.6 percent from 2019 to 2021 and decreased 19.5 percent from 2021 to 2022.
  • From 2015 to 2022, non-hospital acquired severe sepsis cases outnumbered hospital-acquired cases. The number of hospital-acquired severe sepsis cases remained steady over the last several years, before increasing in 2020 and 2021. From 2021 to 2022, there was a 16.1 percent decrease in hospital-acquired cases and 1.4 percent decrease for non-hospital acquired cases.
  • From 2015 to 2022, the average length of stay for severe sepsis decreased from 11.2 days to 10.4 days. The median charge per day increased by 26.3 percent from 2015 to 2022 (charges may not reflect the actual cost paid by the patient or insurer).
  • Medicare was the expected payer for more hospitalized severe sepsis cases than any other payer in 2022, accounting for 181,247 hospitalizations (59.9 percent), followed by Medi-Cal for 67,528 hospitalizations (22.3 percent), private coverage for 43,877 hospitalizations (14.5 percent), other payer for 6,948 hospitalizations (2.3 percent), and uninsured for 3,229 hospitalizations (1.1 percent).
  • With the introduction of hospice care as a discharge category in 2015, there was a reduction in the number of deaths in each of the six other categories, with the greatest decrease in deaths in the skilled nursing category. In 2021, most severe sepsis patients who died within 30 days following discharge died at hospice care facilities (51.6 percent), followed by skilled nursing facilities (20.6 percent), and home health service organizations (10.8 percent).
  • The percentage of hospital-acquired severe sepsis patients among those who died within 30 days of discharge decreased from 2015 to 2021, while the share who acquired severe sepsis outside the hospital increased.

Note: In 2021, HCAI updated its definition of severe sepsis to include more diagnosis codes. Users should be cautious when interpreting the increase in severe sepsis cases which is partly because of this definition change.

Medicare includes: Medicare Advantage, traditional Medicare. Medi-Cal includes: Medi-Cal managed care, fee-for-service Medi-Cal. Private Coverage includes: employer group coverage, individual coverage (including coverage purchased through Covered California), organized charity payers (e.g., March of Dimes, Shriners). Uninsured includes: uninsured patients, as well as instances when insurance does not cover the treatment, or the patient would like to keep the medical procedure private.

*Other Payer includes: Workers’ Compensation, County Indigent Programs, any third-party payment not included in any other category, stays for which no payment will be required by the facility (e.g. courtesy patients), and stays for which no valid expected payer was reported to HCAI.

*Hospitalization charges reported as $0 are not included. Charges are not adjusted for inflation.

ᵟHospice Care was introduced as a discharge category in 2015.

Key Findings – Severe Sepsis Hospital Characteristics

  • The smallest hospitals (1-99 beds) had the highest rates of hospital-acquired severe sepsis.
  • Urban hospitals had higher rates of hospital-acquired severe sepsis compared to rural hospitals. From 2021 to 2022, rates decreased by 27.8 percent for rural hospitals and 17.2 percent for urban hospitals.
  • Nonprofit hospitals had the lowest rates of hospital-acquired severe sepsis followed by government hospitals, and investor-owned hospitals. From 2019 to 2022, there was a rise in rates in all three categories.
  • Teaching hospitals had higher rates of hospital-acquired severe sepsis compared to non-teaching hospitals.

* Investor-owned hospitals are for-profit. Nonprofit hospitals are operated by nonprofit organizations such as churches. Governmental include district, city/county and state facilities that receive government funding.

General Information about Sepsis

  • Sepsis: the body’s extreme response to an infection. Almost any type of infection can lead to sepsis.
  • Sepsis symptoms: high heart rate or low blood pressure, chills, fever, extreme pain or discomfort, confusion, shortness of breath or clammy/sweaty skin.
  • Hospital-acquired sepsis: acquired while a patient is hospitalized for another illness or procedure.
  • Severe sepsis: without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.
  • People in high-risk of developing sepsis: the very young, the very old, those with chronic illnesses, and those with a weakened or impaired immune system.
  • For more information on sepsis visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

How HCAI Created This Product

Severe sepsis cases were identified by a diagnosis of sepsis and organ dysfunction from the Patient Discharge Data (PDD).

Additional Information

Topic: Healthcare Utilization
Source Link: Healthcare Utilization – Inpatient Discharges
Citation: HCAI – Patient Discharge Data, California Inpatient Severe Sepsis, 2015-2022
Temporal Coverage: 2015-2022
Spatial/Geographic Coverage: Statewide
Frequency: Annually