Hospitalists’ Lack of Knowledge of the Confusion Assessment Method:

A Barrier to Systematic Validated Delirium Surveillance

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Robert S. Young, MD, MS; Keiki Hinami, MD, MS; Adnan Arseven, MD; Bijal Jain, MD; Mark V. Williams, MD

Table of Contents

Hospital Practice:

Volume 40 No. 4

Category:

Clinical Features

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DOI: 10.3810/hp.2012.10.1004
Abstract:
Introduction: Delirium is frequently missed by inpatient health care providers despite the existence of a highly sensitive and specific assessment for delirium, the Confusion Assessment Method (CAM). The CAM, due to its test characteristics and ease of use, is an ideal physician instrument for systematic inpatient delirium screening; however, little is known about hospitalists’ knowledge of the CAM. Methods: A short survey with items assessing respondents’ perceptions of delirium detection, familiarity and proficiency with the CAM, and knowledge of the CAM algorithm was administered at a regional hospital medicine conference. Participants included a group of hospital medicine providers comprised of physicians (79.9%), nurse practitioners (7.2%), and physician assistants (12.9%). Results in the form of counts, percentages, and distributions of Likert scale responses and multiple-choice questions were reported. Results: Of 157 surveys distributed, 94% (n = 147) were returned. Approximately 3 of 4 of providers (77%) reported encountering delirium at least once per week, with 45% reporting encountering delirium more than once per week. Yet, 82% had never used or heard of the CAM; only 3 respondents felt proficient with its use. Of the knowledge items, 4 respondents were able to correctly indicate the 4 clinical features of the CAM. Only 1 respondent was able to answer all knowledge items correctly. The respondents also agreed that nurses have an important role in delirium detection (65%), delirium diagnosis is often delayed (68%), and reported that not knowing patients’ baseline cognitive status (53%) and having difficulty separating delirium from dementia or psychiatric illnesses (25%) were important challenges to delirium diagnosis. Conclusion: Hospital medicine providers who responded to the survey reported encountering delirium often in their clinical practice; however, they also reported poor familiarity with and demonstrated poor knowledge of the CAM. These results suggest a potential barrier to systematic inpatient delirium screening and support increased delirium education and the use of validated delirium assessments among hospitalists.

Keywords: delirium; hospitalists; Confusion Assessment Method; geriatrics