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Pitt Researchers Say States Should Develop Policies To Fight Sepsis

Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the country, killing 250,000 Americans each year. The bacterial infection, colloquially known as "blood poisoning," can be caused by contamination in a hospital setting, and in deadly situations results in organ failure.

A research team at the University of Pittsburgh has received a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to study sepsis in hospitals for the next four years. The team will look at data from New York hospitals to figure out what kinds of state policies work when it comes to preventing and treating sepsis. That means strategies like administering early antibiotics and controlling the source of infection in the hospital.

Jeremy Kahn, part of the research team, says mistakes can happen when treating sepsis in hospitals.

"When that happens, there's a role for health policy makers to step in and create health policies that incentivize physicians to do a better job," he said.

Many states, including Pennsylvania, have no sepsis-related rules on the books, meaning strategies for combating the infection can vary from hospital to hospital. New York implemented "Rory's Regulations" across the state in 2013, requiring all hospitals to follow a set of proven protocols in a case of sepsis. The law was named after a 12-year-old boy who died of the infection in a New York hospital after scraping his arm at school.

Rory's Regulations also require hospitals to disclose all sepsis-related data to the state, which is why the research team is looking at their data to figure out what kinds of state policies work when it comes to preventing and treating sepsis.

Kahn says policy makers in Harrisburg have been developing a sepsis policy for about a year, which will ultimately require all Pennsylvania hospitals to adopt protocols for sepsis recognition and sepsis treatment.

(Photo Credit: Hamza Butt on Flickr)