Sepsis presents an enormous public health threat. There are for approximately 1.7 million hospital cases and 270,000 deaths per year. Sepsis is consistently in the top five for hospital case volumes and is the most expensive and resource intensive medical inpatient condition, representing approximately 15% of total hospital costs despite accounting for less than 4% of hospital stays. Various studies estimate sepsis is present in 30% to 50% of hospitalizations that culminate in death. Because two-thirds of sepsis cases are paid for by Medicare, beginning this January 1, HHS will add sepsis care Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing/VBP program. Meaning, Medicare hospital reimbursement will be determined in part on adherence in meeting a multi-step sepsis treatment protocol focused on timely diagnosis and treatment. Dedicated listeners of this podcast may recall ten years ago this week I interviewed Dr. Jim Palmer regarding the use of heart rate variability to identify the onset of infection.
During this 23-minute interview Dr. Scoggins begins by explaining why timely diagnosis of sepsis has remained challenging and why the Medicare program will now tie reimbursement to meeting a sepsis quality measure or protocol. He explains the SEP-1 measure, addresses concerns regarding the sepsis measure driving antibiotic overuse and administrative burden, whether paying for sepsis performance will unduly penalize hospitals serving poorer communities, how the Medicare rule will impact his program, comments on emerging technology improving sepsis diagnosis, the extent to which commercial payers will adopt a similar sepsis pay for value payment rule and finally why we are seeing more sepsis infections and mortality.
Robert Scoggins, MD, PhD, has been a practicing medicine for over twenty years as a pulmonary and critical care physician. He currently is Chief of Staff and ICU Medical Director at Kootenai Health in Northern Idaho. He earned his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology from Vanderbilt University and his MD and a Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Virginia. Dr. Scoggins completed his residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care at Vanderbilt University.