Association Between Medicare's Sepsis Reporting Policy (SEP-1) and the Documentation of a Sepsis Diagnosis in the Clinical Record

Med Care. 2024 Jun 1;62(6):388-395. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001997. Epub 2024 Apr 12.


Study design: Interrupted time series analysis of a retrospective, electronic health record cohort.

Objective: To determine the association between the implementation of Medicare's sepsis reporting measure (SEP-1) and sepsis diagnosis rates as assessed in clinical documentation.

Background: The role of health policy in the effort to improve sepsis diagnosis remains unclear.

Patients and methods: Adult patients hospitalized with suspected infection and organ dysfunction within 6 hours of presentation to the emergency department, admitted to one of 11 hospitals in a multi-hospital health system from January 2013 to December 2017. Clinician-diagnosed sepsis, as reflected by the inclusion of the terms "sepsis" or "septic" in the text of clinical notes in the first two calendar days following presentation.

Results: Among 44,074 adult patients with sepsis admitted to 11 hospitals over 5 years, the proportion with sepsis documentation was 32.2% just before the implementation of SEP-1 in the third quarter of 2015 and increased to 37.3% by the fourth quarter of 2017. Of the 9 post-SEP-1 quarters, 8 had odds ratios for a sepsis diagnosis >1 (overall range: 0.98-1.26; P value for a joint test of statistical significance = 0.005). The effects were clinically modest, with a maximum effect of an absolute increase of 4.2% (95% CI: 0.9-7.8) at the end of the study period. The effect was greater in patients who did not require vasopressors compared with patients who required vasopressors ( P value for test of interaction = 0.02).

Conclusions: SEP-1 implementation was associated with modest increases in sepsis diagnosis rates, primarily among patients who did not require vasoactive medications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Documentation* / standards
  • Documentation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis*
  • Male
  • Medicare* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sepsis* / diagnosis
  • United States