New U.S. Government Report Reveals Annual Cost of Hospital Treatment of Sepsis Has Grown by $3.4 Billion

June 30, 2016

Recent brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows sepsis responsible for nearly $24 billion in annual costs. Study also shows hospitalizations for sepsis are more costly and on the rise, yet fewer than half of American adults have even heard of it. 

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (June 30, 2016) – Sepsis Alliance, the nation’s leading sepsis patient advocacy group, is calling attention to a recent U.S. government study that reveals annual costs for treating sepsis in hospitals have increased over $3.4 billion over a two-year period. The study, which analyzed billings from 2013, revealed that sepsis accounts for nearly $24 billion in annual costs, making it the most expensive condition to treat in the entire U.S. healthcare system.

Sepsis, sometimes referred to as “blood poisoning” by the general public, is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s overwhelming response to infection begins to cause injury and damage to tissues and organs. Sepsis kills 258,000 people in the United States every year, or one person every two minutes

The impact of sepsis on the U.S. healthcare system was reported in a June 2016 statistical brief from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study discovered that while total hospital care expenditures have remained fairly stable, spending for sepsis care actually rose by 19% from 2011 to 2013, more than double the rate for all hospitalizations. At nearly $24 billion in 2013, sepsis was responsible for 6.2% of all hospital costs across the country.

The study revealed that the mean expense per stay associated with those hospitalizations was over $18,000 in 2013, making hospitalizations from sepsis 70% more expensive than the average stay. Sepsis resulted in nearly 1.3 million discharges that year from U.S. hospitals, an increase of 19% from 2011. Sepsis was also the most expensive hospital condition billed to Medicare, accounting for 8.2% of all Medicare costs incurred in 2013.

“The conclusions spelled out in this report really do take your breath away,” Thomas Heymann, Executive Director of Sepsis Alliance said. “Sepsis is the most expensive condition to treat in our healthcare system, and it’s only getting more costly. No matter what side of the political aisle you’re on, it’s dramatic to see how raising sepsis awareness and improving patient outcomes could have a profoundly positive impact on our national healthcare system, our economy, and our nation as a whole.”

Even though hospitalizations are increasing, a majority of Americans still don’t know what sepsis is or how to treat it. The most recent Sepsis Alliance Awareness Survey found that fewer than one-half of all adult Americans have ever heard of sepsis. And the number is even lower among younger adults.

“Sepsis is a national epidemic and the country’s largest unmet medical need,” Dr. James O’Brien, Jr., Medical Director of Sepsis Alliance said. “Early recognition of the symptoms of sepsis combined with prompt administration of fluids and antibiotics can make a huge difference not only in morbidity and mortality, but also in length of hospital stays and health care costs. Now more than ever, it is critical that we raise awareness of sepsis, which will reduce healthcare costs and, more importantly, save thousands of lives every year. We must do more.”

The brief, entitled National Inpatient Hospital Costs: The Most Expensive Conditions by Payer, 2013, was authored by Celeste M. Torio, Ph.D., M.P.H. and Brian J. Moore, Ph.D.  Sepsis Alliance thanks Dr. Torio and Dr. Moore for their recent publication, which can be viewed online by clicking here.

About Sepsis Alliance

Sepsis Alliance is the leading nonprofit patient advocacy organization in North America. Sepsis Alliance’s mission is to save lives by raising awareness of sepsis as a medical emergency. The organization works with multiple partners to host national and local community events, distribute educational information, and promote training and education on sepsis prevention, early recognition, and treatment. Sepsis Alliance also supports sepsis survivors and family members with information about sepsis and post sepsis syndrome, as well as a Faces of Sepsis community forum. The website receives more than 1 million visits each year. Sepsis Alliance, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, is a GuideStar Gold Rated Charity. For more information, please visit