Quality Improvement in Long Term Care: The Psychotropic Assessment Tool (PAT)

Lindsey J. Dahl, Rebecca Wright, Aiying Xiao, Angela Keeven, David B. Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background: There are already a substantial number of individuals with dementia in long-term care. Many nursing home patients have difficult behaviors and are currently managed with psychotropic medications. Medications for behavior need to be titrated and monitored over time for efficacy and safety, and subsequently tapered if ineffective. Some of these medications are not without risk, and that risk-benefit ratio should be discussed and documented with the family. Currently, we are not aware of any quality improvement process that has been developed in long-term care to address these issues. Objectives: To describe the process of a novel quality improvement intervention that was designed to improve documentation in the medical record and interdisciplinary communication of the usefulness and possible side effects of psychotropic agents used in the management of difficult behaviors for dementia. Design: Retrospective review of the chart and quality improvement records in a long-term care facility. Setting: An academic long-term care facility that specializes in dementia care in St. Louis, MO. Methods: The quality improvement team created a process and a form named the Psychotropic Assessment Tool (PAT) to document current behavioral symptoms of the residents; determine whether the resident was on psychotropic agents; identify whether agents had been initiated, titrated, and/or tapered if appropriate; and whether there were any side effects related to the behavioral medications. A letter was created and provided to the surrogate decision maker that described the risk-benefit ratio of the use of antipsychotic agents when these drugs were prescribed. Recommendations from the quality improvement team were provided to the primary care physician. After 1 year of this process, we reviewed the medical charts and quality improvement PAT forms of all residents. We documented the use of psychotropic agents before and after initiating the PAT process, the presence of current behavioral symptoms, the presence of possible side effects, and the recommendations of the interdisciplinary team that met after the monthly quality improvement meetings. Results: A total of 110 patients were included in this study, which reviewed psychotropic drug use between July 2005 and July 2006. The mean age of the residents was 83.8 ± 7.5 years. All residents had a diagnosis of dementia. Mean MMSE score was 13.5 ± 7.3. The prevalence of potential problems that could have been associated with psychotropic drug use was not insignificant and included falls (45%), weight loss (16%), weight gain (7%), dizziness (9%), and sedation (5%). However, behaviors that might warrant psychotropic drug use were not uncommon and included active depression (12%), anxiety (24%), hallucinations (11%), disruptive behavior (21%) and delusions (21%). The percentage of residents on antipsychotics changed from 26.5% pre-PAT process to 25.2% post-PAT process; those on anxiolytics changed from 6.0% to 4.0%. There was a change in hypnotics from 2.6% to 3.4%. Antidepressant usage remained the same at 55%. The PAT CHAT discussion resulted in recommendation of medication changes in 25% of residents. Conclusions: The initiation of this quality improvement process using the PAT led to improved chart documentation and interdisciplinary communication between the team, primary care physicians, and families. Further studies are needed to determine whether this process can impact use of psychotropic agents, improve quality of life, decrease adverse drug events, and/or reduce medical-legal risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-683
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Long-term care
  • dementia
  • difficult behaviors
  • documentation
  • psychotropic drug use


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