This Lawyer Worked to Protect Medical Technology – then Doctors Used it to Help Save his Life

Today, clinicians look to stop a condition that affects more than 30 million people worldwide; new solutions are trying to help solve sepsis

It wasn’t the first time David Bates, a 53-year-old amateur competitive athlete, had completed a run to prepare for a marathon. However, this time around, something just felt different. “I felt shaky and told a colleague that I would hopefully see them on Monday,” Bates said. “But things went downhill pretty fast.” As an intellectual property lawyer at GE Healthcare, Bates makes a living protecting medical technology with patents. By nighttime, Bates’ health had rapidly declined: Elevated resting heart rate, chills, dizziness and a high fever. It was time he got to the walk-in clinic, which quickly called for an ambulance ride to the nearby hospital. Within 15 minutes, nurses had administered an IV, performed an X-ray and began an antibiotic treatment. Thirty minutes after that, bloodwork confirmed Bates was septic and likely in renal failure, which was later determined. Bates was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where caregivers began following a sepsis protocol, a series of timely actions which studies have shown can help improve sepsis outcomes.[i] “While I was unlucky that this happened to me, I was lucky in how it turned out,” he said.

David Bates, an IP attorney and marathon skier and runner, is seen here being transported in an ambulance to the hospital where he was treated for sepsis. He began experiencing the early signs of sepsis shortly after completing a marathon training run.

The World Health Organization estimates sepsis affects more than 30 million people worldwide every year, potentially leading to 6 million deaths.[ii] It’s a condition that occurs when the body’s response to an infection injures its own tissues and organs; it can lead to death or significant morbidity. Anyone with an infection can progress to sepsis conditions but some vulnerable populations, such as elderly people, pregnant women, neonates, hospitalized patients, and people with HIV/AIDS, liver cirrhosis, cancer, kidney disease, autoimmune diseases and no spleen, are at higher risk.[iii] Clinicians used several existing GE Healthcare technologies that Bates has supported in his role at GE Healthcare (such as GE X-ray and Ultrasound devices) during his diagnosis, treatment and recovery. But what if there were tools to help prioritize clinicians’ attention and support sepsis interventions even earlier in the process? Those are exactly the types of products GE Healthcare is developing right now. To help solve the sepsis challenge, GE Healthcare and Roche Diagnostics are working to create an AI-enabled “Virtual Collaborator”[iv] to integrate data from the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and other patient-information systems and to provide insights into the status and trends of patients who are at-risk for sepsis-related deterioration. The Virtual Collaborator is one of several digital tools, applications and solutions in development at GE Healthcare. These tools seek to help medical staff prioritize clinicians’ attention to the most critical patient cases, such as sepsis, and potentially reduce time to intervention. Or in some cases, the solutions might be able to help clinicians in their mission to stop the deadly condition before it strikes. OHSU Health in Portland, Oregon, anchored by Oregon Health & Science University, the state’s only academic health center, is one of two health systems preparing to launch GE Healthcare’s sepsis “tile” -- or application – as an additional support structure for its hospital command center. By tapping into the EMR, the “tile” is intended to track and flag compliance to the hospital’s sepsis pathways, spot the outliers, and trigger alerts when patients are not receiving critical care tasks according to hospital-defined criteria. It works by processing real-time data from multiple sources across the hospital and visualizes the information and corresponding alerts for staff in the command center to act upon. “The challenge is there are various warning systems available in the EMR, based on physiological data, but those are prone to challenges in interpretation,” said Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Director of Adult Critical Care and Chief Medical Capacity Officer, OHSU Health. “Some of these sepsis cases develop in a course of a few hours – patients heart rate goes up, it might be interpreted as pain, blood pressure is low, patient spikes a fever - all of these are patterns we see after surgery because it’s trauma to the body, and a large quantity of patients end up being normal, but a few of these signs suggest that a patient may be developing sepsis, in which case these patients need a very specialized treatment plan in a timely manner.” OHSU Health also is evaluating the GE Healthcare Mural Context Manager, a virtual care solution that can help to aggregate data and patient views from multiple clinical systems and medical devices to provide clinicians with a single dashboard. The tool also synchronizes and integrates an audio/video application to further enhance clinicians’ ability to quickly gain situational awareness to help them assess patient care, all while being located remotely. “When it comes to spotting, treating and monitoring sepsis, time is of essence,” said Merkel. “We believe early-detection solutions could help drive compliance and improve the timeliness in which a nurse reviews the patient, a physician makes a diagnosis, and a clinical intervention occurs.” For patients like Bates, early-detection solutions can’t come to hospitals soon enough. Today, Bates is recovering from an unrelated, major knee surgery while making plans to ski and run marathons in 2020.   [i] Robert L. Gauer, MD, Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina Am Fam Physician. 2013 Jul 1;88(1):44-53. Early Recognition and Management of Sepsis in Adults: The First Six Hours [ii] Fleischmann C, Scherag A, Adhikari NK, et al. Assessment of Global Incidence and Mortality of Hospital-treated [iii] Sepsis. Current Estimates and Limitations. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2016; 193(3): 259-72 [iv] Technology in development that represents ongoing research and development efforts. These technologies are not products and may never become products. Not for sale. Not cleared or approved by the U.S. FDA or any other global regulator for commercial availability.