TIME to think about delirium: improving detection and management on the acute medical unit

BMJ Open Qual. 2018 Aug 13;7(3):e000200. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2017-000200. eCollection 2018.


Delirium affects 18%-35% patients in the acute hospital setting, yet is often neither detected nor managed appropriately. It is associated with increased risk of falls, longer hospital stay and increased morbidity and mortality rates. It is a frightening and unpleasant experience for both patients and their families. We used quality improvement tools and a multicomponent intervention to promote detection and improve management of delirium on the acute medical unit (AMU). We reviewed whether a delirium screening tool (4AT) had been completed for all patients aged over 65 years admitted to the AMU over 1 week. If delirium was detected, we assessed whether investigation and management was adequate as per national guidance. After baseline data collection, we delivered focused sessions of delirium education for doctors and nursing staff, including training on use of the 4AT tool and the TIME (Triggers, Investigate, Manage, Engage) management bundle. We introduced TIME checklists, an online delirium order set and created a bedside orientation tool. We collected data following the interventions and identified areas for further improvement. Following our first PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) cycle, use of the 4AT screening tool improved from 40% to 61%. Adequate assessment for the causes of and exacerbating factors for delirium increased from 73% to 94% of cases. Use of personal orientation tools improved from 0% to 38%. In summary, a targeted staff education programme and practical aids for the ward have improved the screening and management of delirium on the AMU. This may be improved further through more frequent training sessions to account for regular change-over of junior doctors and through implementing a nursing champion for delirium.

Keywords: PDSA; hospital medicine; medical education; mental health; quality improvement.