Helping Military Medics Prevent Death from Sepsis


Soldiers injured in combat are at high risk for sepsis, a serious systemic infection that can result from an infected wound and is fatal if left untreated. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) partnered with a medical device company to develop a portable device for sepsis treatment utilizing the same principals as a dialysis machine. DARPA came to Battelle for assistance in developing a user interface appropriate for military users in the field as well as system engineering and pre-clinical testing. 


Battelle used principles of Human Centric Design (HCD) and early formative research with military medics to develop prototypes for the system layout and the software Graphical User Interface (GUI). The team used an iterative design process, testing each prototype iteration with end users. These tests were used to verify that the system would meet user expectations for completing specific tasks—in this case, administering a blood-filtering therapy to treat sepsis. Researchers observed end users interacting with the prototypes in a simulated stressful environment to evaluate preventable use errors that could result in patient risk. Results were used to refine the designs. 


Battelle’s user research and HCD-based product development process resulted in an interface and GUI that minimize use errors that may lead to patient safety risk. Battelle is now conducting human factors research on the final product for FDA regulatory submission. Battelle’s comprehensive HCD services allowed DARPA to streamline development timelines with an all-inclusive program that carried them from early conceptual research to final submission. Once the device is approved for use, it will revolutionize the treatment of sepsis and give military medics an important new tool to prevent deaths from sepsis in military hospitals and in the field.