Bay Area hospitals sharply cut death ratesVictoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff WriterApril 21, 2011 By taking relatively simple steps and arming health care workers with greater knowledge, Bay Area medical centers have made dramatic strides in reducing death rates from sepsis, the leading preventable cause of deaths in hospitals.Nine Bay Area hospitals participating in a two-year UCSF program saw a striking 40 percent average drop in death rates from the common but potentially deadly condition in which the bloodstream is overwhelmed by bacteria.Sepsis typically begins as an ordinary infection, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection, but can develop into something more serious by overwhelming the body’s immune system. It can turn deadly when the infection enters the bloodstream. An estimated 200,000 people reportedly die from it each year.The nine Bay Area hospitals started with an average sepsis mortality rate of 27.7 percent of cases in the six months leading up to the start of the study in December 2008. By December 2010, the average across the hospitals had dropped to 16.6 percent, for a 40 percent difference in mortality.The hospitals got the results by working with their nurses, doctors, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, specialists and administrators to get them to recognize that there was a problem. Then they taught them to better identify and screen patients most at risk of developing sepsis and to get them to follow existing protocols. As a result, patients were treated with antibiotics much faster.