Antimicrobial stewardship has taken center stage as a healthcare industry priority. While clinical leaders are familiar with the need to combat growth of antibiotic resistant strains, many hospital and health system C-level executives are just beginning to move past a peripheral understanding of the problem’s scope.
It’s understandable, as oversight of antimicrobial processes has historically rested with clinical and quality professionals. However, a number of converging trends are creating a sense of urgency for the C-suite to take ownership of performance in this area. Emerging regulatory mandates coupled with the need to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes is necessitating that healthcare organizations fully leverage the value of formal antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs).
Here are five trends propelling antimicrobial stewardship to the top of the C-suite’s priority list:
A National Action Plan was recently set into motion following Executive Order 13676: Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, issued by President Barack Obama in conjunction with the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. Since that time, there have been two key developments on the national accreditation and regulatory stage that the C-suite should follow:
- In June 2016, The Joint Commission issued a prepublication version of eight new performance standards for hospitals, critical access hospitals and nursing care centers that go into effect January 1, 2017.
- In tandem, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a proposed rule that would also require hospitals to meet new performance criteria.
Poor prescribing practices puts patients at risk
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that antibiotic resistant strains infect at least 2 million individuals each year and contribute to at least 23,000 deaths. When antibiotics are used inappropriately, resistance increases, leading to the rise of multidrug resistant organisms (MDROs)—a significant risk to patient safety. Also, patients who receive a broad-spectrum antibiotic are three times as likely to become infected with a more resistant organism.
Inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents increases costs
The CDC estimates that between 20 percent and 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in U.S. hospitals are either unnecessary or inappropriate, leading to staggering industry-wide costs as high as $34 billion annually.
While excessive and inappropriate prescribing practices create notable waste, they also result in higher drug and patient care costs. For instance, providers must often choose costlier drugs when first-and second-line antibiotics are ineffective. Also, increased risk of infection associated with improper use of antibiotics can potentially lead to longer hospital stays and negative revenue impacts associated with higher rates of healthcare-associated infections.
Lack of new agents entering the market
Loss of effective antibiotics coupled with the introduction of fewer new drugs limits the ability of healthcare organizations to combat infectious disease and manage complications. Thus, the ability to improve antibiotic use and reduce antimicrobial resistance dramatically improves a healthcare organization’s ability to control costs and elevate patient safety.
It’s the right thing to do
Antimicrobial resistance is a global, regional and organizational concern that requires shared responsibility from all stakeholders along the continuum. As part of this responsibility, providers must consider industry best practices for combating the growing epidemic and implement ASPs. The best models for program success focus on both process governance and a foundation of surveillance technology to support early intervention.