Artificial intelligence is helping to detect sepsis in Sydney emergency departments.

Westmead and three other western Sydney hospitals are using high-tech new tools to detect patients with sepsis and those at risk of getting sepsis.

The disease takes 5,000 Australian lives each year.

“This is the first sepsis alert system to be built for Australian emergency departments,” says Naren Gunja, the area's chief medical information officer.

“The aim of the project is to help clinicians detect a very life-threatening disease and help patients have a better chance of surviving.”

After 12 months of running the AI project; “We found that the sepsis alert improves the detection of sepsis over and above what the clinician does ... and it improves the accuracy and early detection by over 20 per cent,” he said.

“We were expecting it to improve detection, but probably not by that much.”

The program is called ED Sepsis Alert.

“As the information is being input into the patient's file or health record, this program is picking up whether this person is at risk of sepsis and gets the clinician alerted to that fact so they can start treatment, like antibiotics, earlier,” Associate Professor Gunja said.

It is able to rapidly assess a number of health indicators.

“It's things like the problem that they come in with, heart rate, blood pressure, whether they have elevated blood results in terms of high bloody acid or low blood bicarbonate,” Associate Professor Gunja said.

“It could be things like they've got an elevated infection marker.

“From here, it gives the clinician an alert to help augment their clinical ability and diagnose causes of potential sepsis — either patients who already have sepsis, or patients who are likely to get sepsis down the track.”