Implementing a Rapid, Two-Step Delirium Screening Protocol in Acute Care: Barriers and Facilitators

Erica K. Husser, Donna M. Fick, Marie Boltz, Priyanka Shrestha, Jonathan Siuta, Shannon Malloy, Abigail Overstreet, Douglas L. Leslie, Long Ngo, Yoojin Jung, Sharon K. Inouye, Edward R. Marcantonio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: An effective and efficient protocol for delirium identification is needed to improve health outcomes for older adults and reduce healthcare costs. This study describes the barriers and facilitators related to the implementation of the ultra-brief confusion assessment method (UB-CAM), a rapid two-step delirium identification protocol (ultra-brief screen, followed by CAM in positives), field tested with hospitalized older adults (70+). DESIGN: A qualitative descriptive design using observational data collection and brief semi-structured interviews. SETTINGS: An urban academic medical center and a community teaching hospital. PARTICIPANTS: Participants included 50 physician hospitalists, 189 registered nurses, and 83 nursing assistants (NAs). MEASUREMENTS: Field researchers guided by a modified multi-level implementation framework, collected observational data as participants administered the UB-CAM (n = 767). Thematic analysis was conducted on five observational categories: structural, organizational, patient, clinician, and innovation. Field notes and brief semi-structured interviews (n = 231) with clinicians, explored the utility, acceptability, and feasibility of the protocol, and supplemented the observations. RESULTS: The UB-CAM was generally positively received by all three clinician types. Six themes describe barriers and/or facilitators to implementing the UB-CAM: (1) physical setting and milieu; (2) practice environment; (3) integrating into role; (4) adaptive techniques; (5) patient responses; and (6) systematic assessment. The composition and interaction of the six themes determined if the theme was expressed as a barrier or facilitator, affirming the importance of context when implementing system-level delirium screening. CONCLUSION: This is one of the first studies to test a two-step process for delirium identification, and to involve NAs in screening, and the findings demonstrate overall support from clinicians for delirium identification, and describe the need for a multifaceted, contextualized, and systemic approach to implementation and evaluation of delirium screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1356
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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