Antibiotic Stewardship Program
Antibiotics are medications we use to treat infections. They are among the most prescribed medications in the US. But antibiotic overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance increases your risk for serious illnesses that are difficult to treat.
Allegheny Health Network (AHN) is lowering this risk with our system-wide antibiotic stewardship program. Our efforts are preserving the well-being of our patients as well as people living in surrounding communities.
Our antibiotic stewardship program involves:
- Performing research
- Conducting care improvement activities
- Educating other providers on the best practices for effective antibiotic use
Information about antibiotic overuse
Antibiotics are different from other medications. The more you use them, the less effective they may become. And if antibiotics no longer work for you (antibiotic resistance), it can be challenging to treat future infections.
Antibiotic overuse can also lead to serious conditions, such as Clostridium difficile (C diff) infections. C diff causes severe pain and uncontrollable diarrhea. And symptoms often come back after treatment.
Antibiotic stewardship at AHN
Antibiotic stewardship includes activities to prevent antibiotic overuse. AHN is a local leader in antibiotic stewardship. We are uncovering ways of using antibiotics that are safer and more effective.
Highlights of our program include:
- Skilled pharmacists: Our team includes pharmacists who specialize in antibiotic stewardship. These specialists track antibiotic prescribing practices across all AHN facilities to identify ways we can improve. We then share this information with other AHN pharmacists and physicians to prevent antibiotic overuse.
- Leadership: AHN hosts the annual Three Rivers Antimicrobial Stewardship Symposium. This medical education event brings together physicians, pharmacists, and nurses from the Pittsburgh area. Our pharmacists and infectious disease physicians teach participants how to develop antibiotic stewardship programs in their organizations.
- Research: We are exploring methods for making antibiotic practices safer, including how we treat skin infections in hospital settings. Our research revealed that, on average, patients were on antibiotics for more than 12 days. Skin infections typically require less than 10 days of antibiotics. This information highlighted the importance of changing care practices so that more patients receive the correct dose. Read more about research at Allegheny Health Network.
Our antibiotic stewardship program
AHN’s antibiotic stewardship practices mirror those of successful programs across the U.S. We are raising the bar for effective antibiotic use in western Pennsylvania with activities that include:
A commitment to safe antibiotic prescribing
Our physicians sign a pledge demonstrating their commitment to safe antibiotic prescribing practices. And we share information about this commitment through posters we display in many of our clinics.
The posters catch people’s interest, leading to meaningful patient-physician conversations about antibiotics. For example, we explain how we use medications other than antibiotics to treat colds and runny noses. Research shows that similar efforts are having a big impact on reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.
Our pharmacists monitor antibiotic prescribing in all AHN hospitals. Every day, they make sure patients receive the appropriate dose for the correct number of days. They also check for potential drug interactions in patients who are taking other medications. These efforts help people have a safe experience while receiving the care they need.
Collaboration with physicians
Our antibacterial stewardship specialists work closely with other AHN physicians to support safe antibiotic prescribing. Our efforts include suggesting additional tests, when necessary, to help diagnose a problem. An accurate diagnosis helps us determine whether antibiotics can help and if so, select the most effective drug.
Network-wide antibiotic prescribing guidelines
All AHN physicians follow the same antibiotic prescribing guidelines. Our guidelines include drug and dose recommendations for nearly every condition we treat.
For example, we may change the type of antibiotic a patient receives once lab tests confirm the diagnosis. Changing the prescription helps patients get the antibiotics that are most effective for that condition. And having consistent care practices across all AHN locations means more patients get the best available antibiotics.
Patients who visit AHN clinics for a sick visit get information about safe antibiotic prescribing practices. For example, we explain that it’s important to follow physician care recommendations when taking antibiotics. These recommendations may include getting rid of medicine that is left over at the end of a course of treatment.
This education is helping many patients take an active role in supporting AHN’s stewardship efforts.