The objective of this study was to directly compare the ability of commonly used early warning scores (EWS) for early identification and prediction of sepsis in the general ward setting. For general ward patients at a large, academic medical center between early-2012 and mid-2018, common EWS and patient acuity scoring systems were calculated from electronic health records (EHR) data for patients that both met and did not meet Sepsis-3 criteria. For identification of sepsis at index time, National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS 2) had the highest performance (area under the receiver operating characteristic curve: 0.803 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.795-0.811], area under the precision recall curves: 0.130 [95% CI: 0.121-0.140]) followed NEWS, Modified Early Warning Score, and quick Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA). Using validated thresholds, NEWS 2 also had the highest recall (0.758 [95% CI: 0.736-0.778]) but qSOFA had the highest specificity (0.950 [95% CI: 0.948-0.952]), positive predictive value (0.184 [95% CI: 0.169-0.198]), and F1 score (0.236 [95% CI: 0.220-0.253]). While NEWS 2 outperformed all other compared EWS and patient acuity scores, due to the low prevalence of sepsis, all scoring systems were prone to false positives (low positive predictive value without drastic sacrifices in sensitivity), thus leaving room for more computationally advanced approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberooab062
JournalJAMIA Open
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • early warning score
  • predictive analytics
  • sepsis


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