Sepsis costs Ontario healthcare system $1 billion per year

February 22, 2021

Dr. Kednapa Thavorn“Sepsis puts an immense burden on patients, and the effects can last months or years. Our study provides new information on the true healthcare costs of sepsis in Canada.”- Dr. Kednapa ThavornA study published in Critical Care Medicine led by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, the University of Ottawa, and ICES shows that severe sepsis is linked with higher mortality, increased hospital readmission and higher healthcare costs. In Ontario these healthcare costs are estimated at $1 billion per year.

Sepsis happens when a person’s immune system overreacts to infection, triggering inflammation throughout the body. Severe sepsis causes organ dysfunction. Sepsis is recognized as a global health priority, affecting millions of people world-wide every year. It is also a leading cause of death among COVID-19 patients.

“Sepsis puts an immense burden on patients, and the effects can last months or years,” said Dr. Kednapa Thavorn, lead author of the study and senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and adjunct scientist at ICES. “Our study provides new information on the true healthcare costs of sepsis in Canada.”

Using data from across Ontario housed at ICES, the researchers looked at 200,000 sepsis patients admitted to hospital between April 2012 and March 2016, and matched them to similar hospitalized patients without sepsis. About a third of the 200,000 sepsis patients had severe sepsis with organ dysfunction.

The research team compared rates of death, length of hospital stay, hospital readmission, and healthcare costs between these groups. Patients were followed on average for two years, up to a maximum of five years.

The team found that patients with severe sepsis had higher rates of death than similar patients without sepsis, with mortality rates 66 percent higher over the course of the study. Sepsis was also associated with longer hospital stays and greater risk of rehospitalization.

Healthcare costs were significantly higher for sepsis patients. Compared to patients without sepsis, healthcare costs in the year after hospital admission were $9,475 greater for a sepsis patient, and $29,238 greater for a severe sepsis patient. All costs were calculated in 2018 Canadian dollars.

“This publication highlights the need for improved early identification of patients of risk of sepsis and strategies to monitor and treat those who survive sepsis to reduce the significant health and economic burden,” says Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud, Scientific Director at Sepsis Canada. “Investing in sepsis research in Ontario could have a major impact on this devastating disease.”

Full Reference: Sepsis-Associated Mortality, Resource Use, and Healthcare Costs: A Propensity-Matched Cohort Study. Kelly Farrah, Lauralyn McIntyre, Christopher J. Doig, Robert Talarico, Monica Taljaard, Murray Krahn, Dean Fergusson, Alan J. Forster, Doug Coyle, Kednapa Thavorn. Critical Care Medicine. Dec 17, 2020. DOI: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000004777

Data sources: ICES, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Cancer Care Ontario, The Canadian Institute for Health Information

Funding: The study was funded by The Ottawa Hospital Academic Medical Organization Innovation Fund. It was also supported by ICES, which is funded by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Research at The Ottawa Hospital is also enabled by generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

About The Ottawa Hospital 

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s top learning and research hospitals, where excellent care is inspired by research and driven by compassion. As the third-largest employer in Ottawa, our support staff, researchers, nurses, physicians, and volunteers never stop seeking solutions to the most complex health-care challenges. Our multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, attracts some of the most influential scientific minds from around the world. Backed by generous support from the community, we are committed to providing the world-class, compassionate care we would want for our loved ones.

About the University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

About ICES

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

About Sepsis Canada

Sepsis Canada is a multi-disciplinary network committed to understanding the causes of sepsis, and improving the prevention, detection and management of this disease for all Canadians through research. Our guiding vision is to “suspect sepsis, save lives, support recovery”. Sepsis Canada brings together researchers, healthcare professionals, patient partners and trainees working collaboratively on inter-related projects under an integrated and unified program of research. We are funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in response to a World Health Organization (WHO) resolution identifying sepsis as a global health priority.

Media Contact 

Amelia Buchanan
Senior Communication Specialist
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Cell: 613-297-8315