This is the first in an ongoing series by our Quality, Safety & Value team highlighting Partners HealthCare’s efforts to develop and implement best practices across our network of hospitals to improve the quality of care patients receive while reducing costs.
At Partners HealthCare, we’re investing in system-wide clinical teams to improve care and reduce costs. One of those teams, the Partners Critical Care Collaborative, shares best practices with all our hospitals to improve patient care and outcomes in our hospital intensive care units (ICU).
One challenge that patients frequently experience in an ICU is delirium, which is a rapid change in consciousness and brain function. And patients in an ICU with mechanical ventilation, or assisted breathing, can also acquire mental or physical weakness as a result of their care. Both delirium and ICU-related weakness increase the chance of staying in the hospital longer and can lead to negative outcomes such as reduced mental or physical function, or increased mortality.
The cost to society is enormous. Caring for delirious, mechanically-ventilated patients in the United States can cost anywhere from $6.5 to $20.4 billion a year, according to research published in Critical Care Nurse.
The cost to patients is even more troubling. Patients with delirium can have lifelong reduced mental or physical function, increased likelihood of going to a nursing home, difficulty maintaining social relationships, and delays in returning to work. Patients with ICU-related weakness can have muscle problems up to one year after their illness.