78% of hospitals prescribe unnecessary or inappropriate antibiotics

Widespread use of unnecessary antibiotics increases patient safety risks and leads to more than $160 million in avoidable healthcare costs, finds a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Premier Inc.

The study reveals that nearly 80 percent of hospitals use inappropriate or unnecessary antibiotic combinations.

"According to our research, the number of unnecessarily duplicative antibiotics was a prevalent practice in U.S. hospitals," Leslie Schultz, R.N, Ph.D., director of the Premier Safety Institute, said during a panel discussion Wednesday about the findings. More than 75 percent of hospitals found evidence that doctors prescribed at least one of 23 potentially unnecessary antibiotic combinations for more than two days.

"If these cases were representative of all U.S. hospitals over the same time period, more than $163 million could have been saved by reducing the antimicrobial drug use," she said, not even accounting for pharmacy and nursing labor costs.

The research also finds that 78 percent of hospitals overused intravenous antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics is a major public health concern as it leads to antimicrobial resistance--or superbugs and adverse drug events. Gina Pugliese, R.N., vice president of the Premier Safety Institute, said inappropriate use also drives up healthcare costs through a "try-everything approach."

A March CDC study found some hospitals prescribe three times more antibiotics than others, which may contribute to antibiotic resistance, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Furthermore, recent research indicates risk of antibiotic resistance increases with length of hospital stay.

As a result, many hospitals develop antimicrobial stewardship programs to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use, Pugliese said.

Healthcare experts on the panel also offered potential solutions, such as the use of various technologies to develop an initial list of antibiotic combinations to monitor and receive alerts in real time. Hospitals can also use clinical data to create automated alerts when clinicians prescribe patients dual or conflicting medications.

"Our goal here is to improve the use of antibiotics, to make sure every patient who needs an antibiotic gets the right kind of antibiotic at the right dose for the right duration of treatment, and that they get them quickly." said Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., associate director for the CDC's Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion.

To learn more:
- here's the study