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Posted on 27 Aug 2018
Clinical/acute care

Taking the first step to understand the full extent of delirium in our hospitals, Safer Care Victoria has just completed the mammoth task of a statewide point prevalence survey.

Conducted over four weeks, the statewide survey involved:

  • more than 5,500 patients who were assessed for delirium
  • more than 400 clinicians who helped collect data
  • 134 public hospitals.

Currently, the only source of information about how often patients in public hospitals experience delirium as a complication of their admission in Victoria is compiled from patient medical records. As delirium is not well recognised by health professionals or documented in medical records, the administrative dataset most likely does not accurately reflect the prevalence of hospital acquired delirium in Victoria.

In 2016–17, only 6,600 cases of hospital acquired delirium were documented in the medical records of Victorian inpatients. This equates to a prevalence of 0.5 per cent.

We expect the results of the statewide point prevalence survey to be significantly higher.

The main aim of the survey was to estimate the current burden of delirium in the Victorian inpatient population. But we also collected information on:

  • the prevalence of cognitive impairment
  • the characteristics of patients at risk or identified as having a possible delirium
  • the frequency of physical and chemical restraint use
  • the frequency of adverse events associated with delirium
  • the terms used by health professionals  of clinicians as they describe patients with delirium and/or cognitive impairment.

We will publicly share the results of the statewide point prevalence survey over the coming months. For the first time, we will have baseline data about the true impact of delirium across our state, which will help inform policy and system level changes.

The information will also be valuable to health services as they undertake improvement activities aligned with the Australian Commission’ on Quality and Safety in Health Care's Delirium Clinical Care Standard to reduce avoidable harm.

The statewide point prevalence survey marks the beginning of a multidisciplinary delirium improvement project which aims to help public health services screen, prevent and manage hospital-acquired delirium in patients.

Over the next 12 months Safer Care Victoria will work with regional and rural hospitals to undertake improvement initiatives, focusing on screening, prevention, management of delirium as well as education of patient, carer and health professional about delirium. Ultimately, the delirium improvement project aims to raise the awareness of delirium among health professionals and prevent the impact of avoidable delirium on the people in our hospitals and their families.

Page last updated: 26 Sep 2018