Geriatric Delirium Care: Using Chart Audits to Target Improvement Strategies

Carla A. Loftus, Lesley A. Wiesenfeld



Our hospital identified delirium care as a quality improvement target. Baseline characterization of our delirium care and deficits was needed to guide improvement efforts.


Two inpatient units were selected: 1) A general internal medicine unit with a focus on geriatrics, and 2) a surgical unit. Retrospective chart audits were conducted for all patients over age 50 admitted during a one-month period to compare delirium care with best practice guideline (BPG) recommendations, and to determine the incidence of missed cases of delirium and negative outcomes in patients with delirium. The aim was to gather local data to prioritize improvement efforts and mobilize stakeholders.


186 charts were reviewed: 17 patients had physiciandiagnosed delirium, 21 patients had missed delirium, and 148 patients had no delirium. Compliance with delirium BPGs was variable, but generally poor. There was a trend towards missed delirium and physician-diagnosed delirium being associated with greater odds of having above-median length of stay and lower odds of discharge home compared to no delirium diagnosis.


Overall, the chart audits confirmed delirium underrecognition and poor adherence to best practices in delirium management. Granular analysis of this data was used to mobilize stakeholders and prioritize improvement plans.


delirium; best practice guidelines; quality improvement; acute care; hospital

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ISSN: 1925-8348 (Online)