Healthcare News & Insights

Antibiotic stewardship is key: Here’s why

Overprescribing antibiotics is a major issue in hospitals, and adopting an antibiotic stewardship program in your hospital is a smart move to cut back on problems – especially since it won’t be voluntary soon.

470927083According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic stewardship programs are hospital-based initiatives designed to improve antibiotic use. They do this by implementing established best practices to optimize the treatment of infections and reduce adverse events associated with using antibiotics.

These programs are necessary because antibiotic resistance is becoming a significant public health problem in the U.S., as discussed in an article from Modern Healthcare.

Drug-resistant bacteria are on the rise in hospitals, sickening millions of patients each year. So the government’s putting pressure on hospitals to curb their antibiotic use, and it’s looking more closely at just how they choose to do so.

In 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will put several questions about antibiotic stewardship on the annual survey it sends to hospitals that report data on hospital-acquired infections to the CDC.

And down the line, the agency plans to require all hospitals that receive Medicare to have in-house antibiotic stewardship programs. The rule will be proposed in 2015, with implementation scheduled for 2017.

Although CMS plans to take hospitals’ resources and size into account, each hospital will have to have some kind of protocol in place for ensuring antibiotics are used safely, or it won’t be getting paid.

Getting started

The CDC recommends that all antibiotic stewardship programs, large or small, have seven core elements:

  • leadership commitment
  • accountability
  • drug expertise
  • action
  • tracking
  • reporting, and
  • education.

Depending on the resources available to a hospital, implementing an antibiotic stewardship program may be harder in some cases than others. Here are three ways to get one started with limited resources, adapted from the Modern Healthcare article:

  1. Start small. Little changes can make a big difference when it comes to antibiotic safety. Discontinuing IV antibiotics and using oral medications instead can help clinical staff keep better track of antibiotic dosage, as well as reduce the likelihood of infection in patients. Another change that yields great results is requiring clinicians to review the status of patients who have been on antibiotics for 48 hours, checking to see if the drugs are still necessary.
  2. Work with outside specialists. Some hospitals have started partnering up with infectious disease specialists in their health system’s network. These specialists help clinical staff examine how effectively antibiotics are being used, working closely with doctors and pharmacists so they can identify and correct situations where antibiotics aren’t being prescribed correctly.
  3. Take advantage of telehealth. For facilities that don’t have access to infectious disease specialists within their network to review their antibiotic prescribing practices, telehealth is a viable option. Infectious disease specialists can provide their services to facilities remotely, which may be less costly than having a full-time specialist on staff.

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