BACKGROUND: Delirium is a frequent form of psychopathology in elderly hospitalized patients; it is a symptom of acute somatic illness. The consequences of delirium include high morbidity and mortality, lengthened hospital stay, and nursing home placement. Early recognition of delirium symptoms enables the underlying cause to be diagnosed and treated and can prevent negative outcomes. The aim of this study was to determine which of the two delirium observation screening scales, the NEECHAM Confusion Scale or the Delirium Observation Screening (DOS) scale, has the best discriminative capacity for diagnosing delirium and which is more practical for daily use by nurses.
METHODS: The project was conducted on four wards of a university hospital; 87 patients were included. During 3 shifts, these patients were observed for symptoms of delirium, which were rated on both scales. A DSM-IV diagnosis of delirium was made or rejected by a geriatrician. Nurses were asked to rate the practical value of both scales using a structured questionnaire.
RESULTS: The sensitivity (0.89-1.00) and specificity (0.86-0.88) of the DOS and the NEECHAM were high for both scales. Nurses rated the practical use of the DOS scale as significantly easier than the NEECHAM.
CONCLUSION: Successful implementation of standardized observation depends largely on the consent of professionals and their acceptance of a scale. In our hospital, we therefore chose to involve nurses in the choice between two instruments. During the study they were able to experience both scales and give their opinion on ease of use. In the final decision on the instrument we found that both scales were very acceptable in terms of sensitivity and specificity, so the opinion of the nurses was decisive. They were positive about both instruments; however, they rated the DOS scale as significantly easier to use and relevant to their practice. Our findings were obtained from a single site study with a small sample, so a large comparative trial to study the value of both scales further is recommended. On the basis of our experience during this study and findings from the literature with regard to the implementation of delirium guidelines, we will monitor the further implementation of the DOS Scale in our hospital with intensive consultation.