It’s one of health care’s most pressing problems, killing tens of thousands a year. What’s your hospital doing to make sure that it's properly prescribing antibiotics and curbing such misuse?
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shining a light on the topic, celebrating its Get Smart About Antibiotics Week from Nov. 16-22. Each year, some 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the CDC notes, and at least 23,000 people die from those infections.
And the overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the most critical factor in such resistance. They’re one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in medicine, the CDC notes, but upward of 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary or not optimally effective. Given all of those numbers that I just threw at you, the CDC is using this week as an opportunity to tout awareness on the matter, coinciding with European Antibiotic Awareness Day on Nov. 18.
Currently, only about 39 percent of U.S. hospitals have an antibiotic stewardship program, systematically ensuring their proper use, and the CDC would like to eventually see that number at 100, says Lauri Hicks, D.O., a medical epidemiologist and director of the Get Smart program. “We still know we have a long way to go.” For those having a tough time getting antibiotic awareness on their C-suite’s priority list, Hicks says the argument is about more than just patient safety.
“Not only does it improve quality of care, but it also saves money,” she says. “I think that really resonates with leadership, especially in hospitals and health systems.”
There are a host of resources and activities planned this week to help get the ball rolling in your hospital. Over on the CDC website, you can find examples of antibiotic stewardship programs, and implementation resources such as checklists and other assessment tools. The American Hospital Association’s Physician Leadership Forum, too, has compiled a toolkit for hospitals to use, which AHA President and CEO Rick Polack touted in an email to members last week.
“Antibiotic resistance — when bacteria stop responding to the drugs designed to kill them — may be the single most important infectious disease threat of our time,” Pollack wrote. “We risk turning back the clock to a world where simple infections can kill people as they did a century ago.”
If all that isn’t enough, there’s also a global Twitter chat — in concert with the World Health Organization and European CDC — on the topic slated for 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time Wednesday. Just use the hashtag #antibioticresistance to join.