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BMJ Open Qual. 2017 Aug 31;6(2):e000153. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2017-000153. eCollection 2017.

A quality improvement approach to cognitive assessment on hospice admission: could we use the 4AT or Short CAM?

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1
Marie Curie Hospice, Marie Curie, Edinburgh, UK.

Abstract

Background Prevalence studies show that 13%-42% of patients admitted to specialist palliative care inpatient units have delirium. Symptoms of delirium are often subtle and easily missed, or misdiagnosed as fatigue or depression, and so the use of a screening tool could improve early identification and management of delirium and lead to improved outcomes. Patients admitted to hospices are often frail and tired, therefore a quick and easy-to-use method of cognitive assessment is essential. Methods A quality improvement (QI) approach (PDSA: Plan, Do, Study, Act) was used to improve screening for delirium on admission to a hospice unit. A baseline measure was taken of the rate of performance of cognitive assessment on admission. Five PDSA cycles were then undertaken which involved implementing change and then evaluating results through auditing case notes and interviewing staff. Results The first cycle determined staff preference between two cognitive assessment methods: the Short Confusion Assessment Method and the four 'A's Test (4AT). Two further PDSA cycles embedded the 4AT (the preferred tool) into the admission process, establishing it as a usable tool in the hospice setting for up to 92% of admissions. A subsequent cycle showing poor sustainability prompted staff education and changes to admission documentation, resulting in an increase in cognitive assessment being performed, from 50% to 76%. Conclusion The 4AT is a usable tool in the hospice inpatient setting to assess patients' cognitive state on admission and can easily be incorporated into the admission process. The QI approach highlighted the need to link staff awareness of their use of the screening tool with perceived improvements in the treatment of delirium, which prompted the creation and implementation of a 'Delirium Checklist'. Some initial lack of sustainability was addressed by staff education and changes to the admission paperwork to ensure compliance with the use of the 4AT and sustained improvement in screening for cognitive impairment.

KEYWORDS:

PDSA; continuous quality improvement; healthcare quality improvement; quality improvement

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