Identifying Medicare Beneficiaries with Delirium

Lidia M.V.R. Moura, Sahar Zafar, Nicole M. Benson, Natalia Festa, Mary Price, Maria A. Donahue, Sharon Lise Normand, Joseph P. Newhouse, Deborah Blacker, John Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Each year, thousands of older adults develop delirium, a serious, preventable condition. At present, there is no well-validated method to identify patients with delirium when using Medicare claims data or other large datasets. We developed and assessed the performance of classification algorithms based on longitudinal Medicare administrative data that included International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnostic codes. Methods: Using a linked electronic health record (EHR)-Medicare claims dataset, 2 neurologists and 2 psychiatrists performed a standardized review of EHR records between 2016 and 2018 for a stratified random sample of 1002 patients among 40,690 eligible subjects. Reviewers adjudicated delirium status (reference standard) during this 3-year window using a structured protocol. We calculated the probability that each patient had delirium as a function of classification algorithms based on longitudinal Medicare claims data. We compared the performance of various algorithms against the reference standard, computing calibration-in-the-large, calibration slope, and the area-under-receiver-operating-curve using 10-fold cross-validation (CV). Results: Beneficiaries had a mean age of 75 years, were predominately female (59%), and non-Hispanic Whites (93%); a review of the EHR indicated that 6% of patients had delirium during the 3 years. Although several classification algorithms performed well, a relatively simple model containing counts of delirium-related diagnoses combined with patient age, dementia status, and receipt of antipsychotic medications had the best overall performance [CV- calibration-in-the-large <0.001, CV-slope 0.94, and CV-area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (0.88 95% confidence interval: 0.84-0.91)]. Conclusions: A delirium classification model using Medicare administrative data and International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnosis codes can identify beneficiaries with delirium in large datasets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)852-859
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Care
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • delirium
  • delirium prevalence
  • electronic health record
  • medicare claims
  • validation


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