CDC Targets Antibiotic Overuse With New Tracking System

James Brice

November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011 — A new electronic tracking system from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promises to help US hospitals take steps against the chronic overuse of antibiotics.

The CDC and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) have announced a pilot program involving 8 acute care hospitals to test the new tracking system. The system enables hospitals to conduct detailed comparisons between their antibiotics administration practices and antibiotic use at other acute care facilities in the United States.

The CDC has expressed concern for decades about the inappropriate prescription and overuse of antibiotics. Broad-based use for off-label indications has contributed to the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria and a decline in the potency of the pharmacopeia of antibacterial drugs for effectively treating many bacterial diseases held in check since the discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics in the mid-twentieth century.

Antibiotics can also trigger allergic reactions and other adverse effects, and can increase the risk for potentially deadly Clostridium difficile infection, according to the CDC.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities should monitor the antibiotics used in their facilities, noted CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, in a news release announcing the program.

"This new system is a powerful tool that will enhance providers' ability to monitor and improve patterns of antibiotic use so that these essential drugs will still be effective in the years to come," Dr. Frieden said.

The joint initiative is called the CDC/IHI Driver Diagram and Change Package for Antibiotic Stewardship. It was announced this week as part of the CDC's "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week," held from November 14 through 20.

The hospitals involved in the pilot program are Community Hospital, Tallassee, Alabama; Centerpoint Medical Center, Independence, Missouri; Rogue Valley Medical Center, Medford, Oregon; St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Illinois; Seton Medical Center, Austin, Texas; Reading Hospital and Medical Center, West Reading, Pennsylvania; Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California; and WellStar Cobb Hospital, Austell, Georgia.

The draft system lays out practice steps hospitals can use to develop practical action plans to improve antibiotic use, according to the IHI, which collaborated with the CDC in its development. Once approved for general application, the tracker will be part of the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

Participation in the network is free to all types of healthcare facilities in the United States.

Promoted as a secure, Internet-based surveillance system, the NHSN expands patient and healthcare personnel safety surveillance systems managed by the CDC's healthcare quality promotion division. It includes a new component that helps hospitals monitor adverse reactions and incidents associated with blood and blood byproduct infusion.

Data collected by the NHSN are used for improving patient safety at the local and national levels. In aggregate, they are used to estimate and characterize the national burden of healthcare-associated infections, for example. At the local level, the data analysis features of NHSN give participating facilities access to various tools ranging in sophistication from rate tables to full-blown statistical analyses comparing a specific healthcare facility's rates with national averages.

The ability to track antibiotic use is currently limited to physicians' offices. A list of pharmacy software vendors who are working with the CDC's new antibiotic use tracking system is accessible at the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists' Web site.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.