New Study Shows Reductions in Antibiotic Use at Ambulatory Care Clinics Participating in HHS-funded Program
Press Release Date: July 6, 2022
Antibiotic prescribing at ambulatory care clinics was cut almost in half in clinics that participated in a safety program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Research published today in JAMA Network Open is the latest demonstration that AHRQ's efforts to help healthcare providers manage their prescribing practices more appropriately can significantly improve antibiotic prescribing.
The study analyzed the results of the AHRQ Safety Program, which assisted 389 ambulatory clinics in establishing or improving antibiotic stewardship programs—coordinated internal programs that promote the appropriate use of antibiotics. Antibiotic prescribing at participating clinics decreased overall by nearly 48 percent, while antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infection diagnoses decreased by 37 percent.
"Antibiotics save lives—but we must use them judiciously to reduce the chance of resistance and ensure that they continue to be effective," said AHRQ Director Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., M.H.S.A. "This program is an example of what AHRQ does best: examining the evidence and developing interventions to keep patients safe."
Antibiotic medications have drastically reduced illness and death due to bacterial infectious diseases. Millions of antibiotic prescriptions are written annually in the United States, mainly in ambulatory care settings. However, up to half of all prescriptions are medically inappropriate, which can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance developing in microbes, rendering antibiotics useless against them. It is estimated that at least 2.8 million illnesses and 35,000 deaths in the United States each year are caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
The AHRQ Safety Program is based on core concepts from the Agency's signature Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program and the Four Moments of Antibiotic Decision Making, a clinician-developed framework that simplifies the complex process of antibiotic prescribing. The Four Moments of Antibiotic Decision Making are the critical time periods to assess the need for antibiotics; clinicians can use the framework whenever antibiotics are being considered for treatment.
The new study reviewed data from several types of ambulatory clinics, including primary care, pediatric care, urgent care, federally supported healthcare (such as Federally Qualified Health Centers and Indian Health Services clinics) and student health centers. The decline in antibiotic prescribing was more pronounced in urgent care clinics and pediatric practices.
"The AHRQ Safety Program continues to demonstrate that focusing attention on appropriate prescribing through the Four Moments of Antibiotic Decision Making is effective across care settings," said AHRQ physician Melissa A. Miller, M.D., M.S., co-author of the study.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, NORC at the University of Chicago, and AHRQ with input from a Technical Expert Panel including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other academic institutions. It was published today in JAMA Network Open; titled Assessment of Changes in Visits and Antibiotic Prescribing During the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Safety Program for Improving Antibiotic Use and the COVID‐19 Pandemic and can be found here. It follows recent studies demonstrating success of the AHRQ Safety Program in hospitals and long-term care facilities. AHRQ has published free toolkits for those settings, and a toolkit for the ambulatory setting will be released later this year.
AHRQ, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is the nation's lead agency for health services and patient safety research. Its mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work within HHS and with other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used. More information about the agency can be found at www.ahrq.gov.
More information about the AHRQ Safety Program for Improving Antibiotic Use can be found at www.ahrq.gov/hai/tools/antibiotic-stewardship/index.html.
AHRQ Office of Communications
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