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Delirium 'a silent healthcare crisis'

Dr. Lance Patak had an extensive background in nursing prior to entering medical school at UCLA. He is a huge advocate of making communications a vital sign -- which, he said, could improve delirium among ICU patients.

Patak calls poor patient communication with intubated patients and associated delirium "a silent healthcare crisis that needs immediate attention." During the COVID-19 outbreak, he said, delirium rates have doubled and tripled, which he attributes, in part, to intubated patients not being able to communicate and because of increasing sedation.

“If we’re going to turn off sedation at 4 a.m., at the very least we should provide our nonverbal patients an effective means to communicate – otherwise we’re just re-exposing the patient to the terror and powerlessness that is their ICU experience,” he said in an interview.

He argues that empowering a patient to communicate should not be a random, situation- or provider-specific event, but something as common, expected and standardized as measuring and documenting blood pressure or heart rate. 

Lance earned an MBA from the Marshall USC School of Business and helped found a company that creates communication boards for patients. He is now launching a spiritual care app to help intubated patients communicate their spiritual needs.

His June 19 op-ed in Critical Care co-written with colleagues at The Ohio State University College of Nursing calls for systemized communication in ICU care.




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