How hospitals can reduce adverse impact of ICU stays on patients

When a patient is admitted to any Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in New Mexico, he or she should receive close, constant medical attention. Patients and their families should expect round-the-clock care and sufficient staffing resources capable of treating such high-risk patients.

Some hospitals are taking their responsibility to help these patients a step further by adopting a relatively new checklist to reduce a common consequence of an ICU stay: delirium. 

A recent article from NPR discusses this phenomenon of patients in the ICU developing moderate to severe mental confusion after stays in the ICU. In response to this troubling risk, doctors have developed a checklist -- or philosophy -- that can reduce the risk of delirium by up to 30 percent. 

It is the ABCDEF bundle. In short, this approach means:

  • Assessing an individual's pain needs and identifying tools to prevent and manage the pain
  • Reducing time on a ventilator by setting times each day to conduct Both Spontaneous Awakening Trials and Spontaneous Breathing Trials
  • Choosing the right medication, whether it is analgesic or sedation
  • Understanding delirium risks and conducting assessments to prevent and manage delirium
  • Minimizing physical deficits by prioritizing early mobility and exercise
  • Engaging a patient's family so they can aid in the recovery process

The approach focuses on minimizing the time a person is unnecessarily unconscious, immobile and impaired by powerful drugs, all of which can contribute to the development of delirium. Hospitals following this checklist can cut the risk of delirium by roughly 50 percent. 

Proactively adopting practices to reduce the risk of mental impairment is one example of how hospitals across the country are changing the way they operate to provide better care for patients. That said, such efforts are not feasible or appropriate in all clinics. And because this approach is not a medical standard, there is no obligation of any hospital or doctor to comply with the checklist.

However, if medical workers do fail to comply with medical standards, legal action could follow. To know whether a medical consequence is the result of unfortunate circumstances or failed compliance by medical workers, injured parties and their families can consult an attorney familiar with medical malpractice claims.

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