Health Action Council Initiative Achieves Significant Antibiotic Prescription Cost Savings

SOLON, Ohio -- The Health Action Council of Northeast Ohio and Caremark Inc. have demonstrated that prescription drug expenses, one of the fastest-growing components of healthcare costs, can be reduced while improving the quality of patient care.

For six months, Caremark analyzed the antibiotic prescribing patterns of 2,660 physicians in Northeast Ohio. The initiative aimed at helping physicians to decrease antibiotic prescribing when the clinical benefit is questionable and to reduce the community health problem of antibiotic resistance. The result was a 14 percent reduction in total antibiotic costs and a 29 percent increase in prescriptions for more effective first-line antibiotics, compared with data from a control group of peer physicians.

"Despite the fact that antibiotics offer no benefit to patients with viral infections, physicians continue to prescribe them at very high rates, constituting 21 percent of all prescriptions written for adults," Barbara Belovich, executive director of the Health Action Council, said. "The overuse of antibiotics wastes resources and has also led to more resistant strains of bacteria."

Research suggests that physicians over-prescribe antibiotics because patients ask for them, and the physician saves time by complying with the patient's request, Belovich said. To address these and other issues, the initiative:

-- Focused on antibiotic utilization and appropriate treatment with

first-line, more cost-effective, antibiotics.

-- Provided guidance to physicians in the selection of first-line

antibiotics for those patients with bacterial infections that are

commonly seen during an office visit.

-- Urged physicians to educate patients on the dangers of overusing

antibiotics.

As a result of the positive outcomes from this study, the Health Action Council and Caremark will work on future initiatives. By working with physicians "on the front end" through education and feedback, health care quality can be improved and unnecessary costs can be avoided.

The Health Action Council of Northeast Ohio is an organization of employers -- private and public employers, large and small, and labor organizations who provide benefits to their members -- dedicated to affordable, high-quality medical care. The Council is committed to reforming the healthcare delivery system to reward both high-quality clinical outcomes and efficiency, to benefit member organizations and the entire community.

Source: Health Action Council

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