Evidence for the safety and quality issues associated with the care of patients with cognitive impairment in acute care settings : a rapid review

Travers, Catherine , Gray, Len, Martin-Khan, Melinda, & Hubbard, Ruth (2013) Evidence for the safety and quality issues associated with the care of patients with cognitive impairment in acute care settings : a rapid review. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Sydney.

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The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care commissioned this rapid review to identify recent evidence in relation to three key questions:

  1. What is the current evidence of quality and safety issues regarding the hospital experience of people with cognitive impairment (dementia/delirium)?

  2. What are the existing evidence-based pathways, best practice or guidelines for cognitive impairment in hospitals?

  3. What are the key components of an ideal patient journey for a person with dementia and/or delirium?

The purpose of this review is to identify best practice in caring for patients with cognitive impairment (CI) in acute hospital settings. CI refers to patients with dementia and delirium but can include other conditions. For the purposes of this report, ‘Hospitals’ is defined as acute care settings and includes care provided by acute care institutions in other settings (e.g. Multipurpose Services and Hospital in the Home). It does not include residential aged care settings nor palliative care services that are not part of a service provided by an acute care institution.


Both peer-reviewed publications and the grey literature were comprehensively searched for recent (primarily post 2010) publications, reports and guidelines that addressed the three key questions. The literature was evaluated and graded according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) levels of criteria (see Evidence Summary – Appendix B). Results Thirty-one recent publications were retrieved in relation to quality and safety issues faced by people with CI in acute hospitals.

The results indicate that CI is a common problem in hospitals (upwards of 30% - the rate increases with increasing patient age), although this is likely to be an underestimate, in part, due to numbers of patients without a formal dementia diagnosis. There is a large body of evidence showing that patients with CI have worse outcomes than patients without CI following hospitalisation including increased mortality, more complications, longer hospital stays, increased system costs as well as functional and cognitive decline. 4 To improve the care of patients with CI in hospital, best practice guidelines have been developed, of which sixteen recent guidelines/position statements/standards were identified in this review (Table 2). Four guidelines described standards or quality indicators for providing optimal care for the older person with CI in hospital, in general, while three focused on delirium diagnosis, prevention and management. The remaining guidelines/statements focused on specific issues in relation to the care of patients with CI in acute hospitals including hydration, nutrition, wandering and care in the Emergency Department (ED). A key message in several of the guidelines was that older patients should be assessed for CI at admission and this is particularly important in the case of delirium, which can indicate an emergency, in order to implement treatment. A second clear mess...

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ID Code: 64951
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: dementia, acute hospital
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > CLINICAL SCIENCES (110300) > Geriatrics and Gerontology (110308)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Commonwealth of Australia
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2013 01:05
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2013 05:46

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