CDC Tool Tracks Antibiotic Use in Hospitals

Previously, the agency could track it in doctors' offices only.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is giving hospitals a new tool to combat the problem of overuse or misuse of antibiotics: a tracking system that allows hospitals to monitor use electronically and thus compare themselves with peer institutions.

CDC said the new system is part of its National Healthcare Safety Network, which monitors infections in health care facilities, including some 4,800 hospitals.

"Antibiotic use leads to antibiotic resistance, which is a major public health problem," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., MPH. "Hospitals and other health care facilities should monitor the antibiotics used in their facilities. 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."

At this point, CDC has funded four health departments and their academic partners to implement the tracking system in 70 hospitals. Any hospital participating in the National Healthcare Safety Network can utilize the tool by working directly with its pharmacy software vendor (a list of vendors working with the new system is available at the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists' website) to transmit data electronically from drug administration or bar-coding records. No manual data entry is involved.

"The threat of untreatable infections is real," said Arjun Srinivasan, M.D., who heads CDC's Get Smart for Healthcare program. "Although previously unthinkable, the day when antibiotics don′t work in all situations is upon us. We are already seeing germs that are stronger than any antibiotics we have to treat them, including some infections in health care settings."

The agency is observing Get Smart About Antibiotics Week during Nov. 14-20, which coincides with similar efforts in Europe and Canada to educate consumers and health care providers. CDC is part of the Federal Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance, which is meeting during the week in Washington, D.C., to discuss next steps toward meeting goals of the recently revised A Public Health Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.

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