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Q: How well do local hospitals do in treating sepsis?

A: For much of last year, both hospitals in Urbana did better than the national average in delivering timely and appropriate care for sepsis.

From January through September 2017, 65 percent of patients at what's now known as OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center and 61 percent of patients at Carle Foundation Hospital received appropriate care for severe sepsis and septic shock, compared to the national average of 49 percent, according to new data added to Medicare's Hospital Compare website for thousands of hospitals.

At what's now OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center in Danville, the percentage was below the national average, at 22 percent. Both that hospital and OSF Heart of Mary in Urbana were under prior ownership by Presence Health during the sepsis treatment data collection period last year.

Data submitted for all three hospitals was based on a sample of patient/cases, according to Hospital Compare.

Sepsis is an extreme reaction to an infection and it's considered to be a life-threatening emergency. When it's not treated promptly, it can damage organs in the body, and the risk of death rises when it progress to septic shock.

The kinds of infections most often linked with sepsis are infections of the lungs, urinary tract, skin and gut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Signs of sepsis can include a combination of any of these symptoms — a high heart rate, low body temperature, confusion, shivering, clammy or sweaty skin, shortness of breath and extreme pain or discomfort.

Most at risk are older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

Both Carle Foundation Hospital and OSF HealthCare have been initiating changes aimed at more quickly diagnosing and treating sepsis cases, spokesmen for both systems said. That's included staff education, flagging people at higher risk for sepsis in patient records and empowering nurses to trigger sepsis alerts based on patients' conditions and vital signs.

"OSF HealthCare recognizes the importance of tracking and preventing sepsis and septic shock in our patients," spokeswoman Libby Allison said. "To that end, we have implemented many different initiatives across the ministry (OSF system) to help improve recognition and timely treatment of patients at risk for sepsis."

Dr. Brad Weir, associate medical quality officer for Carle, said Carle has had a sepsis committee meeting monthly, which has also initiated process changes, among them improving the turnaround times for lab tests related to sepsis. Carle is also participating with the University of Illinois on research looking at sepsis data from multiple hospitals, he said.

Nationally, 1.5 million people wind up with sepsis every year, and 250,000 of them die from it, according to the CDC.

More statistics to be aware of:

One in 3 people who die in a hospital had sepsis.

80 percent of sepsis cases begin outside a hospital.

Seven out of 10 people developing sepsis recently used health care services or had chronic medical conditions that require frequent health care.