By now, everybody in the hospital field understands that antibiotics are often overprescribed or prescribed for medical conditions they are not intended to treat, and that the consequences can be dire. But putting an effective program in place to eliminate such bad practices can be a challenge.

Help is here: A webinar taking place tomorrow will look at how hospitals can build a successful antimicrobial stewardship program.

It's a huge problem. Drug-resistant bacteria are proliferating at a dangerous pace, due largely to the misuse of antibiotics in health care and in the food industry. New medicines aren't being developed quickly enough to keep up. Experts warn that we could lose control of infections we've been able to curb or cure since the introduction of antibiotics early last century.

Tomorrow's webinar, hosted by the American Hospital Association's Physician Leadership Forum, will build on the Antimicrobial Stewardship Toolkit recently compiled by the AHA and six partnering organizations. As the association's John Combes noted in this space last week, the toolkit offers valuable resources for hospitals, consumers and clinicians.

For hospital folks, the toolkit links to a readiness assessment tool from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention that's divided into two sections, one for those beginning a program and another for those building on an existing program. It's intended to be shared with everyone from senior managers and clinical leaders to risk managers, lab staff and the IT team. A commitment by senior leadership to solve the antibiotic problem is paramount. 

The toolkit also provides easy access to advice and guidelines from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology and others.

The imperative is clear. Consider these facts from the CDC's March "Vitalsigns" report:

• More than half of all hospital patients receive an antibiotic.
• Doctors in some hospitals prescribe three times more antibiotics than doctors in other hospitals.
• Reducing prescriptions of high-risk antibiotics by just 26 percent can lower deadly diarrhea infections by 30 percent.

Take advantage of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Toolkit ASAP. And sign up for tomorrow's webinar right here, right now.