Overview and Strategy Analysis of Technology-Based Nonpharmacological Interventions for In-Hospital Delirium Prevention and Reduction: Systematic Scoping Review

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Aug 26;23(8):e26079. doi: 10.2196/26079.


Background: Delirium prevention is crucial, especially in critically ill patients. Nonpharmacological multicomponent interventions for preventing delirium are increasingly recommended and technology-based interventions have been developed to support them. Despite the increasing number and diversity in technology-based interventions, there has been no systematic effort to create an overview of these interventions for in-hospital delirium prevention and reduction.

Objective: This systematic scoping review was carried out to answer the following questions: (1) what are the technologies currently used in nonpharmacological technology-based interventions for preventing and reducing delirium? and (2) what are the strategies underlying these currently used technologies?

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in Scopus and Embase between 2015 and 2020. A selection was made in line with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR). Studies were eligible if they contained any type of technology-based interventions and assessed delirium-/risk factor-related outcome measures in a hospital setting. Data extraction and quality assessment were performed using a predesigned data form.

Results: A total of 31 studies were included and analyzed focusing on the types of technology and the strategies used in the interventions. Our review revealed 8 different technology types and 14 strategies that were categorized into the following 7 pathways: (1) restore circadian rhythm, (2) activate the body, (3) activate the mind, (4) induce relaxation, (5) provide a sense of security, (6) provide a sense of control, and (7) provide a sense of being connected. For all technology types, significant positive effects were found on either or both direct and indirect delirium outcomes. Several similarities were found across effective interventions: using a multicomponent approach or including components comforting the psychological needs of patients (eg, familiarity, distraction, soothing elements).

Conclusions: Technology-based interventions have a high potential when multidimensional needs of patients (eg, physical, cognitive, emotional) are incorporated. The 7 pathways pinpoint starting points for building more effective technology-based interventions. Opportunities were discussed for transforming the intensive care unit into a healing environment as a powerful tool to prevent delirium.

Trial registration: PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42020175874; https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?RecordID=175874.

Keywords: delirium; delirium prevention; delirium reduction; delirium treatment; intensive care unit; nonpharmacological; strategy; systematic scoping review; technology; technology-based intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Delirium* / prevention & control
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Technology