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Posted on 24 Jun 2019
Clinical/acute care

Witnessing the distress and harm suffered by an elderly woman with unrecognised delirium drove our Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer Ann Maree Keenan to lead a new statewide program to improve patient outcomes.

“That lady is now scared to ever return to hospital,’’ says Ann Maree, “and I just thought, ‘We can do better than this’.”

More than 20 health services are part of the SCV-IHI Delirium collaborative, working to reduce the severity and duration of hospital-acquired delirium through early diagnosis, prevention and treatment. By 30 November 2019 they will reduce average length of stay by 0.5 days and falls by 20 per cent in hospitalised patients aged older than 65 years.

With six months of data collected, it is too soon to see improvements in the outcome measures.

However, the below graph shows improved screening for delirium, meaning people are being spared avoidable distress and confusion while in hospital.

Graph showing the per cent of patients who receive cognitive screening within 24 hours of admissions

At the beginning of the collaborative, health services were screening 25 per cent of the time. After 14 weeks, they achieved the goal of 90 per cent. When patients are consistently assessed and detected for delirium, clinicians can better respond to their needs and keep them safe.

A nurse participants from the collaborative says:

"While we can’t yet measure if we’re reducing the severity of a delirium experience, we at least feel on the right track to do so. It’s rewarding to switch the focus to prevention rather than the struggle of responding to a clinical condition that was potentially avoidable ... I am loving being part of this collaborative and will feel proud of what we ultimately achieve together."