Why is this research important?

Identifying clinical deterioration in order to prevent death is a major focus for health systems across the world. Sepsis is a specific cause of clinical deterioration and death with an estimated 123,000 cases and 46,000deaths in the UK each year. Similarly, high levels of sepsis have been reported internationally and sepsis is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a global health priority.

Many countries have nationwide sepsis action plans and all UK hospitals have set targets to rapidly diagnose and treat patients with sepsis. Timely appropriately targeted intravenous (IV) antibiotics have been shown to be effective in improving outcomes for patients, with a 4% increase in odds of mortality for every hour’s delay in administration of IV antibiotics.

Early warning screening systems are used to identify clinical deterioration and prevent avoidable mortality. Many of these systems use Early Warning Scores (EWS), based on patients’ vital signs, including: heart rate; blood pressure; temperature and oxygen saturation. Predetermined levels in each vital sign are associated with scores, these are then added up. The total score determines the risk group a patient is allocated. These scores can be embedded in electronic health systems and the scores can automatically trigger an alert.

The Global Digital Health Unit working with Imperial College Healthcare Trust have shown that the introduction of a digital sepsis alert reduced the risk of death by 14% (Honeyford, 2020). This research was funded by the Imperial Biomedical Research Centre. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Currently there is little evidence available to support Trusts in selecting the most effective algorithms, alert thresholds and which patients benefit. The DiAlS study will inform clinicians and hospital managers on the most effective alerts, the optimal implementation process and possible unintended consequences.

Who is carrying out the study?

This study is being carried out by an experienced research team led by Dr Ceire Costelloe (Principal Investigator), Director of the Global Digital Health Unit in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. The lead researcher for the DiAlS study is Dr Kate HoneyfordThe work is being supported by the NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative and the UK Sepsis Trust.

A key strength of the DiAlS study is the collaboration between researchers in the Global Digital Health Unit and clinicians and researchers across six NHS hospital Trusts and three universities.

We are working with a range of stakeholders including health professionals and patients to share and exchange knowledge at all stages of the study.

This work is funded by the NIHR. The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

The project has ethical approval from the Health Regulatory Authority (Project ID - 288328).