Navigating the AI Frontier: Illuminating Sepsis Diagnosis and Treatment

Kasturi Goswami
4 min readAug 12, 2023

Medical statistics indicate that almost half of all US hospital admissions and deaths are due to Sepsis — the human body’s severe response to an infection (often in the lungs, urinary tract, skin, or gastrointestinal tract). Sepsis becomes deadly when an untimely response leads to tissue damage and organ failure. If detected and treated early on, this situation can easily be averted.

The world healthcare game-changer — Artificial Intelligence (AI) — is evolving every minute, embracing all forms of data under its wing. While it is not quite at a stage where it can fetch surgeons their scissors and scalpel or serve inpatients an excellent cup of warm tea in their beds, it is making headlines in a more critical field — identifying and treating the silent killer, Sepsis.

The Sherlock Holmes of Health Data

Sheryl is the lead neonatalogist of her city’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It is well aware of medical stats that declare sepsis as the primary reason for morbidity and mortality in neonates. She has seen too many families break because a sneaky killer had consumed their bundle of joy.

In need of a more effective solution, she decided to reach out to a technical team who would effectively incorporate AI-powered algorithms into their EHR system.

These would scrutinize an avalanche of patient data to flag telltale signs of sepsis. From erratic heart rates to fever spikes, AI will comb through the medical data that might escape even the sharpest human eyes. It’s like having a medical Sherlock Holmes with a binary brain.

But, like any detective, AI isn’t perfect.

The Inside Out of Our Binary Buddies

Unlike humans, AI never suffers from a Monday morning hangover, nor does it blink at the sight of a stack load of data. It can crunch numbers faster than a caffeine-fueled calculator and spot patterns our minds overlook. Thus, using AI to help detect sepsis can significantly increase patient survival rates.

However, before we roll out the AI red carpet, it’s crucial to acknowledge its limitations.

AI-powered predictive models are constructed, including a wide range of machine learning methods relies on the quality and quantity of data it feeds on. Thus, incomplete or biased data can make our binary buddy throw a medical tantrum.

Moreover, AI lacks the innate human touch and context-based understanding. It might diagnose sepsis but can’t offer a comforting smile or hold a patient’s hand. It’s a trade-off we need to consider.

According to an Ernst and Young study, Generative AI can tremendously influence the healthcare industry. Some successful implementations of Generative AI include medical chatbots, personalized treatment plans, and simulations for conditions like sepsis.

The Second Act in the AI Treating Sepsis Plan

AI isn’t just about the diagnosis; in some cases, it is donning the doctor’s coat and diving into treatment strategies.

Let us go back to Sheryl’s case. Imagine her NICU gets a virtual medical advisory board discussing the best course of action to handle the Sepsis situation based on global data. It’s like tapping into the collective wisdom of healthcare minds working with neonates worldwide. This AI-enhanced board can propose tailored treatments by analyzing historical patient responses and outcomes.

However, we must remember that AI has a supporting role, not the lead. The final decision rests with our flesh-and-blood physicians.

An Efficient Collaboration

It’s not human versus AI; it’s a harmonious duet. AI can process mountains of data unimaginably, presenting potential diagnoses and treatment options. However, the discerning human touch takes those suggestions, weighs them against the patient’s unique circumstances, and crafts a comprehensive plan.

Ethical Quandaries: Beyond the Cold Code

AI is more than just coding and algorithms; it’s about extending our reach and enhancing our capabilities with modern technology. AI offers a fresh perspective and a different angle to view the complex puzzle of Sepsis.

However, as with any other technological leap, ethical questions such as privacy concerns, data security, and the role of AI in life-or-death decisions demand serious contemplation. Striking the right balance between innovation and responsibility is a tightrope walk we must navigate carefully.

The Road Ahead

As we stand on the cusp of a new era in healthcare, it’s clear that AI’s potential in identifying and treating sepsis is substantial. With each data-driven insight and each successful intervention, we inch closer to a future where sepsis is no longer the ominous threat it once was.

The next time you raise your cup of tea (carefully hand-delivered by a human, not AI), take a moment to ponder AI’s potential in sepsis management. It is a chapter still being written — one that promises to be as captivating as it is lifesaving.



Kasturi Goswami

I head the content team of a digital transformation startup. Medium is an outlet for my itch to write something that isn't part of my job.