Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is Nov. 18 through 24. Over the last several years, WellSpan Summit Health has worked to create protocols that ensure patients are only given antibiotics for illnesses when absolutely necessary.
Data shows the effort, which began in 2017, has been successful.
“The work we’re doing is helping keep our community members safe,” said Dr. Stephen Flack of WellSpan Family Care and medical director of primary care.
About 70 percent of bronchitis patients got a prescription for antibiotics when the effort to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use started. Yet bronchitis isn’t usually bacterial in natures, so antibiotics often aren’t needed to treat the condition.
By last month antibiotics were being prescribed in only 28% of bronchitis cases.
At the inpatient level, pharmacy staff at WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital has led the charge in creating procedures to ensure patients are prescribed fewer unnecessary antibiotics. That effort came through work from an interdisciplinary Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee (ASC).
“Historically, antimicrobial and antibiotic overuse in hospitals has caused adverse reactions for patients,” Dr. Jarett Logsdon said.
Those reactions range from organ failure to increased microbial resistance and an uptick in C.diff infections. Logsdon is a pharmacy manager and infectious disease pharmacist.
Clostridium difficile, also known as “C. diff”, is a germ that can cause diarrhea. Most cases of C. diff infections occur in patients taking antibiotics. The most common symptoms watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and tenderness.
Logsdon said the passion and teamwork of everyone on the ASC has translated to significant decreases in unnecessary antibiotic use. With that comes decreased patient risk for C.diff and decreased antimicrobial resistance.
“People often think when they’re sick and not feeling well, they need medicine to help them feel better,” Flack said. “However, antibiotics are only effective at treating bacterial illnesses, not viruses, so, providers have to be very cautious when prescribing.”
He said the more antibiotics a person takes, the higher risk they have for treatment-resistant, “super-bug” bacteria. Common antibiotics can’t kill that bacteria.
“That’s concerning, because not a lot of new antibiotics are being developed,” Flack said.
He cautioned that if patients use too many antibiotics, bacteria become resistant to the ones available. It then gets much harder to effectively treat an illness that does need the power of that antibiotic.
The best thing a person can do when they are sick with cold, flu or other virus and don’t need an antibiotic is to take measures for self-care.
“Stay home, rest, drink fluids, eat if you feel hungry and manage minor aches and pains with over-the-counter medicine,” he said.
To help with nasal congestion, use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray.
How Patients can Help
There are several ways patients can help providers in their effort to responsibly prescribe antibiotics:
- Understand that an antibiotic isn’t always prescribed when you’re sick and see a health-care provider. Remember there’s an important reason behind it.
- Know that sometimes viruses can linger and cause bacteria to form, which is why you may need an antibiotic after initially not needing one.
- Make a commitment to your health and your family’s health. Use antibiotics only if absolutely necessary.
- Make sure you take prescribed antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Finish the entire round of medication even if you feel better.
- As with other medications prescribed for you, never share them with friends or family.