HHS rolls out antibiotic stewardship phase of program targeting healthcare-associated infections

Prescription and pills
The fourth phase of an HHS program aimed at reducing hospital-acquired infections seeks to improve antibiotic stewardship through a coordinated effort among federal agencies. (Getty/Gti337)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services targets antibiotic resistance in the fourth phase of its Action Plan to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infections (HAIs). The agency is seeking public comment on its proposal until Dec. 26, 2017.

HHS launched its HAI Action Plan in 2009 and complemented it with the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in 2015. In antibiotic stewardship, the aims of the two programs overlap.

The government’s goal in this phase will be to “demonstrate the complementary work of federal agencies on antibiotic stewardship efforts, describe the relationship between HAIs and antibiotic resistance, and to point the way for future health care quality improvement efforts,” according to the current draft (PDF).

The rise of drug-resistant superbugs has continued to set off alarms at major healthcare agencies, including the World Health Organization, which recently warned that the world is running out of antibiotics capable of dealing with the evolving threats.

While many healthcare organizations in the U.S. have begun to develop stewardship programs to counter the threat of antibiotic resistance, only two states, California and Missouri, have produced policies targeting the issue.

To better coordinate these efforts and disseminate emerging best practices, HHS describes a coordinated effort it has undertaken across five agencies to expand the use of stewardship programs nationwide, in an attempt align those programs more closely with the Centers for Disease Control’s existing stewardship framework.

The agencies also worked on best practices for small and critical-access facilities, which face greater difficulties in implementing such programs than larger hospitals.

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Using a range of tracking data obtained by the CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency hopes to spur a coordinated effort to boost research on antibiotic resistance and the elements of effective stewardship practices.

Specific plan objectives include establishing monitoring programs in all 50 states, developing stewardship programs in all acute care hospitals, and reductions of inappropriate antibiotic use by 50% in outpatient settings and 20% in inpatient settings, all by 2020.