|Paul T. Green|
Clinical Manager, Pharmacy, Upper Allegheny Health System, Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared this past week, November 14 – 18, 2016, as Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a national annual observance to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. While antibiotics are life-saving mediations that treat bacterial infections, they are not without risks. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of those infections.
Antibiotics are also the most common cause of emergency department visits for side effects in children under 18 years of age. This is why it is so important to use antibiotics only when needed, and if needed, to use the right drug at the right dose, and for the right amount of time.
This is timely information as we move into cold and flu season. It is very important for patients to understand that not all infections can be treated with antibiotics. For example, both the common cold and flu are caused by viruses not bacteria therefore making antibiotics completely ineffective against them. Understanding that, patients can go to their health care provider with more realistic expectations when they are not feeling well and know that getting an antibiotic is not always the right answer. In fact, studies have shown that up to 50% of all antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary and inappropriate. Overuse of antibiotics can cause a wide variety of unintended problems including increased costs and unnecessary side-effects including potentially life-threatening infections such as Clostridium difficle (C. dif.).
The Upper Allegheny Health System (UAHS), which includes both Olean General Hospital (OGH) and Bradford Regional Medical Center (BRMC), is committed to providing the highest quality of care for our patients which includes the appropriate use of antibiotics for those with infections. In order to best achieve this goal, UAHS has implemented an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program which allows pharmacists, doctors, nurses, laboratory staff, and a wide variety of other members of the health care team to work cooperatively to ensure that patients who are ordered antibiotics receive appropriate care.
The UAHS Antimicrobial Stewardship Program aims to optimize antibiotic use for patients with infections and reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. The program has been successful in reducing overall antibiotic use and C. dif. cases while improving patient outcomes and decreasing overall health care costs, though cost savings is a secondary consideration to patient care.
In addition to these important benefits, The Joint Commission, an organization that accredits more than 21,000 healthcare organizations around the country including both OGH and BRMC, has issued a requirement to include an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program in the standards for hospital accreditation starting in 2017. The UAHS Antimicrobial Stewardship Program is well ahead of the curve there and has been recognized by The Joint Commission and Health Care Association of New York State (HANYS) as being a prime example of the type of program that all hospitals should strive for regardless of size or location. In fact, the UAHS Antimicrobial Stewardship Program recently presented New York state-wide lecture alongside the program from Duke University and will be featured on the national level at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Midyear Meeting, the world’s largest gathering of pharmacists, in December 2016.