Innovative new tool to identify patient sepsis risk in Western Sydney emergency departments

Sepsis is a life-threatening time critical condition that can occur when the body is fighting any bacterial, viral or fungal infection.

It can be difficult to diagnose sepsis as it can be masked behind minor visible symptoms, and if not treated quickly, can lead to organ failure and death.

A new tool is being piloted at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD)’s Westmead Hospital, that will help clinicians assess a patient’s risk of sepsis while they are in the emergency department (ED) waiting room.

The Sepsis Risk Tool Dashboard combines a patient’s age, gender and vitals and calculates a sepsis risk percentage for each patient to support the clinician in assessing if sepsis is a risk or not.

This dashboard has been designed to complement the existing Sepsis Kills program which was initiated by the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC).

“There are other sepsis detection algorithms, but none focus on the ED waiting room, which is where sepsis is most likely to remain undiscovered,” said Dr Amith Shetty, Senior Staff specialist at Westmead Hospital and Clinical Director of NSW Health.

“This is what makes this tool unique; it ensures that patients who are waiting for care are not missed or deteriorate.”

This innovative clinical decision support tool (CDST) is a collaboration between WSLHD, eHealth NSW, the CEC, NSW Health Pathology, Sydney Health Partners and the University of Sydney.

Sepsis Risk Tool Dashboard project team

Through the use of Artificial Intelligence, the dashboard passes the patient information through an algorithm trained on historic data concerning patients with sepsis to create a risk score.

“The more frequent this tool is used to detect risk of sepsis, the better the risk score algorithm will become,” said Dr Shetty.

“This tool could be lifesaving,” said Dr Margaret Murphy, Clinical Nurse Consultant in Emergency Services at Westmead Hospital.

“Emergency nurses are the first clinicians with whom waiting patients have contact, so if clinical deterioration in sepsis is detected earlier in these patients, then decisions linked to time critical treatments (e.g. antibiotics) can occur much earlier in the patient journey.”

The clinical pilot was soft launched at Westmead Hospital in June 2022 and the clinical go-live and evaluation is being launched in line with World Sepsis Day, 13 September 2022.

The project welcomes feedback and intends to assess if the pilot has been successful in identifying sepsis cases proactively, preventing unnecessary deaths or re-admissions. If beneficial, this would inform the next stage for a state-wide solution.