Healthcare News & Insights

CDC raising awareness of antibiotic use in hospitals

Although there’s been some progress, hospitals still need to make more of an effort to curb the overuse of antibiotics when treating patients. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging hospitals to be more proactive with prescribing antibiotics. 

ThinkstockPhotos-493887466 (1)According to the CDC, around 2 million people in the country are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, including infections like C. diff. And these infections cause at least 23,000 deaths.

These problems can be directly traced to the overuse of antibiotics. Per the CDC, 50% of the antibiotics administered to patients aren’t appropriate for their conditions.

To raise awareness, the CDC has designated Nov. 16 to Nov. 22 as “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” and it’s using the occasion to urge hospitals to adopt specific antibiotic stewardship programs.

Only around 39% of hospitals currently have such a program, according to an article from the American Hospital Association’s Hospitals & Health Networks, but it’s essential to ensure that antibiotics are only prescribed as necessary.

Starting a program

Antibiotic stewardship programs encourage clinical staff to follow best practices when prescribing and administering antibiotics. There are several resources available for hospitals to get started. The American Hospital Association has created a toolkit for creating an antibiotic stewardship program, and the CDC has information and examples of successful programs on its website.

The CDC also has a checklist of elements that an effective antibiotic stewardship program must include, such as:

  • Leadership support. Hospital executives must come out in full support of any policies and procedures designed to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. They must also make appropriate funding available to support the program.
  • Accountability. A physician leader or other point person should be responsible for any outcomes of your antibiotic stewardship program.
  • Drug expertise. Besides physician representatives, a knowledgeable, high-ranking member of the pharmacy team should be closely involved with your program.

Other key elements include specific actions to support optimal antibiotic use (e.g., requiring all doctors to specifically document the need for antibiotics), interventions to improve antibiotic use (e.g., getting pre-authorization from a pharmacist before administering antibiotics), and systems to monitor antibiotic use over time in a hospital.

Facilities that don’t have a specific program in place to reduce antibiotic use should get started on creating one right now.

Not only is antibiotic resistance a public health issue, it’s a big problem for hospitals when trying to lower patients’ risk of contracting infections. If a patient’s infected with a “superbug” that doesn’t respond to traditional antibiotics, hospitals have fewer options for treating the patient – and the outcome may be dire.

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