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This was an innovation project supported by the Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund.

Lead organisation

Austin Health


La Trobe University


Delirium is a serious medical condition which can cause disturbed thinking and behaviour, and fluctuating consciousness. Being in hospital can compound the challenges of this condition, as patients can find the environment unfamiliar and socially isolating. 

People experiencing delirium have a higher risk of dying while in hospital, and many have ongoing problems with thinking and memory after they leave. The condition is difficult to treat, so prevention is key. 

Research indicates that up to 40 per cent of delirium that occurs in hospital can be prevented, and there is evidence that strategies that do not involve medication are effective. Examples include making sure patients are well hydrated and nourished, getting adequate sleep, moving often, and wearing their glasses or hearing aids.

Austin Health established a system to improve delirium identification and developed a bundle of delirium prevention strategies that both staff and consumers could implement. This increased the frequency and consistency of preventative care provided to at-risk patients, reducing their chance of acquiring delirium while in hospital.


  • Reduce hospital-acquired delirium by identifying and implementing delirium prevention activities
  • Develop and produce education resources for clinical staff
  • Develop and produce education resources for patients, families and carers
  • Develop and implement individualised delirium prevention plans
  • Establish multidisciplinary delirium leads
  • Establish a delirium-specific volunteer program for priority wards


  • Decreased hospital-acquired delirium by 18 per cent
  • Increased delirium screening for patients by 30 per cent
  • Developed a delirium prevention bundle, with 86 per cent of activities implemented
  • Developed a delirium e-learning program that was completed by 86 per cent of staff on target wards
  • Increased the consistency of delirium prevention activities for at-risk patients
  • Improved the patient experience, making them feel empowered in contributing towards their own healthcare
  • Initiated a volunteer program on one of the target wards, which received overwhelmingly positive feedback


September 2020 – An organisation-wide roll out of the delirium prevention program has commenced. The delirium education program delivered as part of this project won a Gold award in the 2020 LearnX Awards’ Best Learning and Development Project category.

Project summary

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