AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Hospitals in central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley are detecting cases of sepsis earlier thanks to new monitoring technology.

Sepsis is an infection in a person’s blood stream and every hour is crucial for the survival of those who have it. Sepsis can be sometimes difficult for busy medical personnel to spot, so a backup system has been implemented.

Data scientist Penny Cooper created the Sepsis Alert System for Augusta Health using data and information that doctors and nurses already have.  The system helps get antibiotics to patients as soon as possible.

“We wanted to take advantage of artificial intelligence capabilities and how it can improve our health outcomes, so sepsis was a great place to start,” Cooper said.

The automated system tracks all of the hospital’s patients each hour in search of any abnormalities that signal a potential sepsis case. It then sends an alert to nurses when it detects a problem.

“I see it as a backup system,” said Dr. Adam Rochman, Medical Director for Augusta Health Emergency Department. “I still think front line workers, nurses, and doctors are usually recognizing sepsis and being able to act on that, but this is another double check.”

Since piloting the system in 2017, the mortality rate at Augusta Health is consistently below the state average of about 12%. Amy Markham, Quality Coordinator for Neurology at Augusta Health, says they’ve saved 282 lives since implementing the system.

“It just shows this system really works and its actually saved many lives,” Markham said.

Other area hospitals, including Sentara Martha Jefferson, are using a similar technology. The sepsis sniffer system, implemented at the end of 2018, can predict if a patient may have sepsis 8-12 hours before infection occurs.

“Historically, the care team may have delayed identifying sepsis because it’s something that’s hard to do, so leveraging the computer system and the artificial intelligence gives us a leg up,” said Dr. Paul Tesoriere, VP of Medical Affairs at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Sentara has rolled out the sepsis sniffer system at all of its hospitals and has seen the system-wide sepsis mortality rate drop 7.7% in July 2019. For the first quarter of 2019, Augusta Health had a rate of 8.5%.

Augusta Health Sepsis Mortality Trends 2016-2019:

Augusta Health Sepsis Mortality Rate

Sentara Health CPI Sepsis Mortality Trends January 2017-July 2019:

Month Total Sepsis Vol Tot Sepis Morts Sepsis Mortality Rate   Month HA Sepsis Vol HA Sepsis Morts HA Sepsis Mortality Rate
Jan 17 1140 137 12.0%   Jan 17 79 30 38.0%
Feb 17 1051 103 9.8%   Feb 17 89 20 22.5%
Mar 17 1102 136 12.3%   Mar 17 79 26 32.9%
Apr 17 998 112 11.2%   Apr 17 80 24 30.0%
May 17 963 99 10.3%   May 17 72 25 34.7%
Jun 17 1029 91 8.8%   Jun 17 72 18 25.0%
Jul 17 957 95 9.9%   Jul 17 75 16 21.3%
Aug 17 970 85 8.8%   Aug 17 78 20 25.6%
Sep 17 986 82 8.3%   Sep 17 71 23 32.4%
Oct 17 931 92 9.9%   Oct 17 79 28 35.4%
Nov 17 1026 109 10.6%   Nov 17 71 18 25.4%
Dec 17 1070 122 11.4%   Dec 17 94 25 26.6%
Jan 18 1217 137 11.3%   Jan 18 74 23 31.1%
Feb 18 997 118 11.8%   Feb 18 79 26 32.9%
Mar 18 1007 90 8.9%   Mar 18 97 19 19.6%
Apr 18 990 100 10.1%   Apr 18 83 21 25.3%
May 18 1019 118 11.6%   May 18 79 28 35.4%
Jun 18 1005 96 9.6%   Jun 18 97 23 23.7%
Jul 18 1021 97 9.5%   Jul 18 86 25 29.1%
Aug 18 1109 110 9.9%   Aug 18 86 23 26.7%
Sep 18 898 98 10.9%   Sep 18 83 25 30.1%
Oct 18 980 98 10.0%   Oct 18 85 19 22.4%
Nov 18 964 121 12.6%   Nov 18 99 39 39.4%
Dec 18 1132 127 11.2%   Dec 18 90 35 38.9%
Jan 19 1080 127 11.8%   Jan 19 79 22 27.8%
Feb 19 1009 108 10.7%   Feb 19 84 25 29.8%
Mar 19 1150 111 9.7%   Mar 19 87 24 27.6%
Apr 19 1186 113 9.5%   Apr 19 100 29 29.0%
May 19 1195 95 7.9%   May 19 91 26 28.6%
Jun 19 1067 89 8.3%   Jun 19 87 27 31.0%
Jul 19 1124 87 7.7%   Jul 19 93 26 28.0%