A project to improve how hospitalists address inpatient delirium, which has led to reductions in length of stay and cost, took center stage in the Best of RIV plenary session at HM19 in March.
The project, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), was presented alongside projects on alcohol detox at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and on medication reconciliation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“The plenary is the top three of the 1,000 that are out there – so, impressive work,” said Benji Mathews, MD, SFHM, the chair of the Research, Innovations and Vignettes competition.
At UCSF, the project was meant to tackle the huge problem of delirium in the hospital, said Catherine Lau, MD, SFHM, associate professor of medicine there. Each year delirium affects more than 7 million people who are hospitalized, and hospital-acquired delirium is linked with prolonged stays and more emergency department visits and hospital readmissions. But research has found that as many as a third of these hospital-acquired cases can be prevented, Dr. Lau said.
New admissions and transfers – a total of more than 2,800 patients – were assessed for delirium risk, and those deemed high risk were entered into a delirium care plan, aimed at prevention with nonpharmacologic steps such as maximizing their mobility and helping them sleep at night.
All patients also were screened on every nursing shift for delirium, and those diagnosed with the disorder were placed in the delirium care plan, with notification of the patient’s team for treatment.
The average length of stay decreased by 0.8 days (P less than .001), with a decrease of 1.9 days in patients with delirium, compared with outcomes for nearly 2,600 patients before the intervention was implemented, Dr. Lau said. Researchers also found a decrease in $850 spent per patient (P less than .001), with a direct savings to the hospital of a total of $997,000, she said. The 30-day readmission rate also fell significantly, from 18.9% to 15.9% (P = .03).
The screening itself seemed to be the most important factor in the project, Dr. Lau said.
“Just the recognition that their patient was at risk for delirium or actually had delirium really raised awareness,” she said.
The project on alcohol detox used careful risk assessments at emergency department discharge, e-consults, protocols to limit benzodiazepine prescribing, and telephone follow-up to reduce hospital admissions and 30-day readmissions, as well as length of stay.
Researchers used scores on CIWA – a 10-question measurement of the severity of someone’s alcohol withdrawal – and history of complicated alcohol-use withdrawal to determine whether ED patients should be admitted to the floor or sent home with or without prescriptions for gabapentin and lorazepam, said Robert Patrick, MD, a hospitalist at the Cleveland VA.
Perhaps the most innovative feature of the program was using systolic blood pressure and heart rate in addition to CIWA to determine whether someone should receive a benzodiazepine, he said. Someone with a CIWA of 9-12, for instance, would be prescribed one of these drugs only if their vitals were elevated, Dr. Patrick said.
He encouraged other hospitalists to try a similar program at their centers.
“You don’t have to be at a VA to do this,” he said. “And most importantly, you don’t have to have a cooperative ED to do this. You can do this just within your hospitalist group.”
In another presentation, Jeffrey Schnipper MD, MPH, FHM, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, described the results from a project in which SHM’s MARQUIS program – an evidence-based “toolkit” on medication reconciliation – was implemented at 18 hospitals. The kit offers a plan to get the best possible medication history, give medication counseling on discharge, and identify patients at risk for medication discrepancies. The 18 sites were coached, with areas of improvement identified.
By months 13-18 of the study period, the number of medication discrepancies had fallen to 0.93 per patient for those who’d received at least one form of intervention, compared with 2.69 per patient among those who’d received none.
“The MARQUIS interventions, including the toolkit and mentored implementation,” Dr. Schnipper said, “are associated with a marked reduction in medication discrepancies.”