A Multi-Phase Quality Improvement Initiative for the Treatment of Active Delirium in Older Persons

Joseph I. Friedman, Lihua Li, Sapina Kirpalani, Xiaobo Zhong, Robert Freeman, Yim Tan Cheng, Francis L. Alfonso, George McAlpine, Aditi Vakil, Bernard Macon, Paul Francaviglia, Margherita Cassara, Vicki LoPachin, Katherine Reina, Kenneth Davis, David Reich, Catherine K. Craven, Madhu Mazumdar, Albert L. Siu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: The Hospital Elder Life Program emerged 20 years ago as the reference model for delirium prevention in hospitalized older patients. However, implementation has been achieved at only 200 hospitals worldwide over the last 20 years. Among the barriers to implementation for some institutions is an unwillingness of hospital administration to assume the costs associated with implementing programs that service all hospitalized older patients at risk for delirium. Facing such a situation, we implemented a unique and self-evolving model of care of older hospitalized patients who had already developed delirium. DESIGN: Hypothesis testing was carried out using a pretest-posttest design on program administrative data. SETTING: Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY, a tertiary-care teaching facility. PARTICIPANTS. A total of 9,214 consecutively admitted older patients to non–intensive care (ICU) inpatient units over a 5.5-year period, regardless of the suspected presence of delirium or risk status for developing delirium. INTERVENTION: A delirium intervention program targeting patients in whom delirium has already developed, with a modified delirium team supported by extensive workflow automation with custom tools in our electronic medical records system. MEASUREMENTS: Length of stay (LOS) for delirious and non-delirious patients on units where this program was piloted. Benzodiazepine, opiate, and antipsychotic use on the same units. RESULTS: There was a significant drop in LOS by 1.98 days (95% confidence interval =.24–3.71), a decrease in the average morphine dose equivalents administered from.38 mg to.21 mg per patient hospital day, diazepam dose equivalents from.22 mg to.15 mg per patient hospital day, and quetiapine administered from.17 mg to.14 mg per patient hospital day for delirious patients on the program pilot units. CONCLUSION: Elements of our unique active delirium treatment program may provide some direction to other program developers working on improving the care of older hospitalized delirious patients. However, the supporting evidence presented is limited, and a more rigorous prospective study is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-224
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Confusion Assessment Method
  • active delirium treatment program
  • delirium prevention program
  • electronic medical record

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'A Multi-Phase Quality Improvement Initiative for the Treatment of Active Delirium in Older Persons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this