Sepsis Program Activities in Acute Care Hospitals — National Healthcare Safety Network, United States, 2022
Weekly / August 25, 2023 / 72(34);907–911
Raymund B. Dantes, MD1,2; Hemjot Kaur, MPH2; Beth A. Bouwkamp, MPH2,3; Kathryn A. Haass, MPH2; Prachi Patel, MPH2; Margaret A. Dudeck, MPH2; Arjun Srinivasan, MD2; Shelley S. Magill, MD, PhD2; W. Wyatt Wilson, MD1,2; Mary Whitaker, MSN2; Nicole M. Gladden2; Elizabeth S. McLaughlin4; Jennifer K. Horowitz4; Patricia J. Posa, MSA5; Hallie C. Prescott, MD4 (View author affiliations)View suggested citation
What is already known about this topic?
Sepsis is a life-threatening organ dysfunction contributing to at least 350,000 deaths annually in the United States. Sepsis care is complex, requiring multidisciplinary coordination within a hospital.
What is added by this report?
In 2022, 73% of hospitals reported having a sepsis program, ranging from 53% among hospitals with 0–25 beds to 95% among hospitals with >500 beds. Only 55% of all hospitals provide sepsis program leaders with dedicated time to manage a sepsis program and conduct daily activities.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Opportunities exist to increase institutional support and improve the structure of hospital-based sepsis programs, which is the focus of CDC’s Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements.
Views equals page views plus PDF downloads
Sepsis, life-threatening organ dysfunction secondary to infection, contributes to at least 1.7 million adult hospitalizations and at least 350,000 deaths annually in the United States. Sepsis care is complex, requiring the coordination of multiple hospital departments and disciplines. Sepsis programs can coordinate these efforts to optimize patient outcomes. The 2022 National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) annual survey evaluated the prevalence and characteristics of sepsis programs in acute care hospitals. Among 5,221 hospitals, 3,787 (73%) reported having a committee that monitors and reviews sepsis care. Prevalence of these committees varied by hospital size, ranging from 53% among hospitals with 0–25 beds to 95% among hospitals with >500 beds. Fifty-five percent of all hospitals provided dedicated time (including assigned protected time or job description requirements) for leaders of these committees to manage a program and conduct daily activities, and 55% of committees reported involvement with antibiotic stewardship programs. These data highlight opportunities, particularly in smaller hospitals, to improve the care and outcomes of patients with sepsis in the United States by ensuring that all hospitals have sepsis programs with protected time for program leaders, engagement of medical specialists, and integration with antimicrobial stewardship programs. CDC’s Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements provides a guide to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective sepsis programs that complement and facilitate the implementation of existing clinical guidelines and improve patient care. Future NHSN annual surveys will monitor uptake of these sepsis core elements.
Sepsis, life-threatening organ dysfunction secondary to infection (1), contributes to at least 1.7 million adult hospitalizations and at least 350,000 deaths annually in the United States (2). Hospital quality improvement programs focused on sepsis have been associated with reductions in mortality, length of stay, and health care costs (3,4). In 2023, CDC has published the new Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements (5) (Sepsis Core Elements), a guide to help hospitals develop multiprofessional programs to monitor and optimize early identification, management, and outcomes of sepsis.
CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN)* is the nation’s most widely used surveillance system for tracking patient and health care personnel safety measures, such as prevention of health care–associated infections. Hospitals reporting data to NHSN are required to complete an annual survey with questions regarding patient volume, laboratory practices, patient safety practices, and facility characteristics used in risk adjustment for quality measures.† Questions regarding hospital sepsis program practices were added to the 2022 NHSN annual survey to evaluate baseline practices.
All U.S. hospitals (approximately 6,129) are eligible to enroll in NHSN (6). Enrolled hospitals were required to complete the 2022 NHSN Patient Safety Component Annual Hospital Survey by March 1, 2023. Hospital staff members completed the survey electronically, on the basis of hospital practices during 2022, using the NHSN web-based application. Responses were provided to four required questions and to three additional required questions, conditional upon responses to the initial questions. The first question asked about the presence of a committee that monitors and reviews sepsis care and outcomes (sepsis committees), followed by three conditional questions regarding the functions of and staff member representation on the committee. The following three questions asked about leadership support for sepsis-related activities, approaches to rapid sepsis identification, and sepsis management protocols. Survey respondents were instructed to consult with persons leading sepsis efforts or other local expertise as needed to accurately complete the survey. Descriptive analysis, stratified by hospital size (number of beds), was completed on a data set generated on June 1, 2023, using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute). This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.§
As of June 1, 2023, among 5,397 hospitals enrolled in the NHSN Patient Safety Component, 5,228 had completed the survey. Seven surveys were excluded because of incomplete responses, which resulted in inclusion of 5,221 hospitals in the analysis (97% completion rate) (Table 1). Among these hospitals, 3,787 (73%) reported having a sepsis committee. These committees were least common in hospitals with 0–25 beds (53%), and progressively more prevalent as hospital size increased (Table 2). Antimicrobial stewardship and infectious disease representatives were integrated into 55% and 45% of sepsis committees, respectively. Monitoring and review of antimicrobial use in sepsis care was reported for 61% of sepsis committees.
Approximately one half (55%) of all hospitals (range = 35% [0–25 beds] to 78% [>500 beds]) reported that hospital leadership provided leaders of committees supervising sepsis activities with dedicated time as required to lead these activities as part of their job description or granted or assigned protected time from their other clinical or other job responsibilities to dedicate to sepsis activities (Table 3). Other indications of leadership support for hospital sepsis programs, such as data analytic or information technology resources, were reported more commonly by larger hospitals.
Hospitals reported using various approaches to rapidly identify patients with sepsis; the most frequent (65%) was electronic health record–generated alerts based on systemic inflammatory response syndrome criteria (7), followed by manual screening (47%), and predictive models (33%). Ten percent of hospitals reported having no standardized process for assisting with rapid sepsis identification. Having no standardized process was more common in hospitals with 0–25 beds (15%) than in hospitals with >500 beds (1%).
Hospitals frequently reported the existence of protocols to assist in the management of sepsis care, including those that prompt the ordering of diagnostic tests (85%), followed by those that prompt the ordering of intravenous fluids (80%), those that identify and tailor care for septic shock (79%), and those that prompt the ordering of preferred antimicrobials for sepsis or underlying infection (77%). Sepsis protocols tailored to specific patient populations were available in one third (34%) of hospitals, ranging from 21% among hospitals with 0–25 beds to 57% among those with >500 beds. Overall, 10% of hospitals reported having no standardized protocol to assist in the management of sepsis care. Having no standardized protocol to assist in the management of sepsis care was more common in hospitals with 0–25 beds (17%) than those with >500 beds (1%).
This survey of the majority of U.S. hospitals describes the current state of sepsis programs and identifies potential areas of improvement. Although sepsis committees are present in most hospitals, they occur less frequently in smaller hospitals, which might have access to fewer personnel and specialty resources. Further, just over one half of responding hospitals reported that dedicated time or assigned protected time was provided to sepsis program leadership. This survey highlights opportunities to further improve the institutional support and structure of hospital-based sepsis care.
Sepsis care is complex and requires coordination across multiple clinical disciplines and hospital care locations (e.g., emergency departments, intensive care units, and hospital wards). Evidence-based care guidelines (8), along with state-based (e.g., New York State Department of Health Sepsis Regulations)¶ and federal initiatives (e.g., Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Severe Sepsis and Septic Shock: Management Bundle) (9) have emphasized the importance of protocols for early sepsis identification and prompt management. This survey demonstrated that most U.S. hospitals report having some tools and protocols for sepsis detection and early management. To achieve further improvements in sepsis care for patients throughout hospitalization and after discharge, CDC has developed Sepsis Core Elements (5). Sepsis Core Elements will provide a guide for creating, structuring, and resourcing comprehensive sepsis programs, so that hospitals can provide optimal sepsis care. Sepsis Core Elements are intended as a manager’s guide to complement and support the implementation of existing sepsis guidelines.
Sepsis Core Elements was modeled after CDC’s Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Program (ASP),** (5) which provides a framework for structuring ASPs that lead to improvements in antibiotic prescribing and reductions in length of hospitalization (10). In the 2022 NHSN survey, approximately one half of sepsis programs reported involvement of ASPs. This survey also indicated that only 61% of sepsis committees monitor and review antimicrobial use in sepsis care, although these responsibilities might overlap with those of ASPs. Sepsis Core Elements recommends inclusion of ASP personnel on sepsis committees to facilitate rapid and optimized antimicrobial use in sepsis and discontinuation of antibiotics when underlying infection has been ruled out. Coordination and other respective ASP and sepsis program practices will continue to be tracked in future NHSN annual surveys.
The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations. First, the survey is limited to acute care hospitals enrolled in NHSN and might not reflect practices among all U.S. acute care hospitals; however, hospitals enrolled in NHSN represent at least 88% of U.S. acute care hospitals (5). Second, although hospitals reported whether specialty services such as pediatrics and labor and delivery were included in sepsis committees, these services are not within the scope of practice at all hospitals, and thus conclusions cannot be made regarding the frequency with which these services might be missing or absent from sepsis committees. Third, although many sepsis committees do not monitor antimicrobial use in sepsis, these responsibilities overlap with those of ASPs. Collaboration among sepsis programs and ASPs is emphasized in Sepsis Core Elements to ensure optimal antimicrobial use in treating sepsis. Fourth, NHSN surveys were self-reported, and answers were not independently confirmed. Finally, this survey did not strictly define criteria for a sepsis program and is subject to respondent interpretation. Sepsis Core Elements defines specific components of sepsis programs that will be tracked in future surveys.
Implications for Public Health Practice
These data highlight opportunities, particularly in smaller hospitals, to improve the early identification of, care for, and outcomes among patients with sepsis in the United States by ensuring that all hospitals have sepsis programs with protected time for program leaders, engagement of medical specialists, and integration with ASPs. Sepsis Core Elements provides a guide to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective sepsis programs. Future NHSN annual surveys will monitor implementation of these sepsis core elements.
Corresponding author: Raymund B. Dantes, email@example.com.
1Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia; 2Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 3CACI International Inc, Atlanta, Georgia; 4Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan; 5Office of the Chief Nurse Officer, Adult Hospitals, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
All authors have completed and submitted the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Mary Whitaker reported being secretary and board member of the Certification Board for Infection Control Test committee, Georgia Infection Prevention Network; Elizabeth S. McLaughlin reported participation in Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Value Partnership Program and funding support for program management with the Michigan Hospital Medicine Safety Consortium. Patricia J. Posa reported receiving support to attend the American Association of Critical Nurses’ National Teaching Institute during 2022 and 2023; Hallie C. Prescott reported receiving honoraria for grand rounds or talks at academic medical centers, conference travel funds to International Sepsis Forum and International Symposium of Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine conferences, serving on data safety monitoring boards unrelated to this manuscript, and serving as co-chair of the Surviving Sepsis Campaign 2021 Adult Guidelines.
§ 45 C.F.R. part 46, 21C.F.R. part 56; 42 U.S.C. Sect. 241(d); 5 U.S.C. Sect. 552a; 44 U.S.C. Sect. 3501 et seq.
- Singer M, Deutschman CS, Seymour CW, et al. The third international consensus definitions for sepsis and septic shock (Sepsis-3). JAMA 2016;315:801–10. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.0287 PMID:26903338
- Rhee C, Dantes R, Epstein L, et al.; CDC Prevention Epicenter Program. Incidence and trends of sepsis in US hospitals using clinical vs claims data, 2009–2014. JAMA 2017;318:1241–9. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.13836 PMID:28903154
- Afshar M, Arain E, Ye C, et al. Patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a sepsis care quality improvement program in a health system. Crit Care Med 2019;47:1371–9. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0000000000003919 PMID:31306176
- Sreeramoju P, Voy-Hatter K, White C, et al. Results and lessons from a hospital-wide initiative incentivised by delivery system reform to improve infection prevention and sepsis care. BMJ Open Qual 2021;10:e001189. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjoq-2020-001189 PMID:33547154
- CDC. Hospital Sepsis Program Core Elements. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/sepsis/core-elements.html
- American Hospital Association. Fast facts on U.S. hospitals, 2023. Chicago, IL: American Hospital Association; 2023. https://www.aha.org/statistics/fast-facts-us-hospitals
- Bone RC, Balk RA, Cerra FB, et al.; The ACCP/SCCM Consensus Conference Committee. American College of Chest Physicians/Society of Critical Care Medicine. Definitions for sepsis and organ failure and guidelines for the use of innovative therapies in sepsis. Chest 1992;101:1644–55.55 https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.101.6.1644 PMID:1303622
- Dellinger RP, Rhodes A, Evans L, et al. Surviving sepsis campaign: Crit Care Med 2023;51:431–44. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0000000000005804 PMID:36928012
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Sepsis resources. Baltimore, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; 2023. https://qualitynet.cms.gov/inpatient/specifications-manuals/sepsis-resources
- Davey P, Marwick CA, Scott CL, et al. Interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing practices for hospital inpatients. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2017;2:CD003543. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003543.pub4 PMID:28178770
|Hospital size, no. of beds||No. (%) of hospitals*|
Suggested citation for this article: Dantes RB, Kaur H, Bouwkamp BA, et al. Sepsis Program Activities in Acute Care Hospitals — National Healthcare Safety Network, United States, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2023;72:907–911. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7234a2.
MMWR and Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report are service marks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.
All HTML versions of MMWR articles are generated from final proofs through an automated process. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users are referred to the electronic PDF version (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr) and/or the original MMWR paper copy for printable versions of official text, figures, and tables.
Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.