CDC is Now Tracking Antibiotic Use in Hospitals


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is launching a new antibiotic tracking system allowing hospitals to monitor antibiotic use electronically, make better decisions about how to improve use, and compare themselves to other hospitals. Before now, CDC was only able to track antibiotic use in doctors offices.

Each year, millions of Americans take antibiotics to fight infections. But overuse and misuse of antibiotics can change germs, allowing them to evolve resistance to antibiotics, which increases the risk of an infection for which there are limited or no treatment options. Patients who receive antibiotics can experience side effects, including allergic reactions and may be at increased risk for Clostridium difficile infection, a potentially deadly diarrheal infection.

Antibiotic use leads to antibiotic resistance, which is a major public health problem, says CDC director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities should monitor the antibiotics used in their facilities. This new system is a powerful tool that will enhance providers ability to monitor and improve patterns of antibiotic use so that these essential drugs will still be effective in the years to come.

The antibiotic use tracking system is part of CDCs National Healthcare Safety Network, the nations premier tool for monitoring infections in health care facilities, which includes over 4,800 hospitals. CDC has funded four health departments and their academic partners to implement the tracking system in 70 hospitals. In addition, any hospital that participates in the National Healthcare Safety Network can utilize this tool by working directly with its pharmacy software vendor to transmit data electronically from drug administration or barcoding records. There is no manual entry of data, thus saving a facility time and money.  

The threat of untreatable infections is real, says Arjun Srinivasan, MD, who heads CDCs Get Smart for Healthcare program. Although previously unthinkable, the day when antibiotics dont work in all situations is upon us. We are already seeing germs that are stronger than any antibiotics we have to treat them, including some infections in healthcare settings.

CDC implements multiple strategies to address antibiotic use, including Get Smart About Antibiotics Week (Nov. 14-20, 2011). This year, CDC and its partners are teaming up to promote appropriate antibiotic use among the nations healthcare facilities and doctors offices to preserve the strength of existing antibiotics and prevent resistant infections. While success of these strategies has been documented over the last decade with less unnecessary prescribing for colds and sore throats, there is still room for improvement as up to half of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.

The 2011 observance of Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is an international collaboration, coinciding with European Antibiotic Awareness Day and Canadas Antibiotic Awareness Week. CDCs Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work and Get Smart for Healthcare programs are designed to educate consumers and health care providers about appropriate use of antibiotics. In conjunction with Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, the CDC is announcing a partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to pilot test a tool to help hospitals implement practical strategies to improve antibiotic use. The pilot testing is currently under way in eight U.S. hospitals.

Additionally, CDC is part of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance. During the observance week, this task force will meet in Washington, D.C., to discuss next steps toward meeting goals of the recently revised A Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance. Patients, healthcare providers, hospital administrators, and policy makers must work together to employ safe and effective strategies for improving antibiotic use.

To access a list of pharmacy software vendors who are working with CDCs new antibiotic use tracking system, see the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists website

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