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Six Advantages of Including Real-Time Surveillance in Your Antimicrobial Stewardship Program

Posted on 01/28/15


Early identification of potential issues and prompt intervention in instances of inappropriate prescriptions are hallmarks of antimicrobial stewardship (AMS). On these fronts, hospitals that launch AMS programs using manual processes often find themselves acting to situations reactively and are challenged to address problems in a timely way. 1

Increasingly, real-time surveillance systems are recognized as a critical element in successful antimicrobial stewardship programs, as they offer six significant advantages:

  • They alert clinicians of the potential for antimicrobial resistance at, or shortly after, the point at which a prescription is written. Surveillance systems can pair and compare a patient’s laboratory-confirmed pathogen with prescriptions and alert the pharmacy and AMS team if the provider has prescribed an ineffective, overly broad or restricted antimicrobial. While it may be difficult for providers to stay on top of current treatment recommendations for various drug-resistant organisms, a sophisticated surveillance system helps keep the hospital’s policies and alert system up to date based on its antibiogram.

  • Real-time surveillance systems can also help providers select therapies by offering the most current recommended antimicrobial regimen comparisons, to ensure adherence to drug, dose and duration guidelines.

  • They increase patient safety. By matching key information from the patient’s electronic medical record, lab results and pharmacy records, automated surveillance systems can generate timely alerts about potential drug-drug interactions, patient allergies, renal function issues and dosage adjustments, and possible healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). They sound the alarm, literally or figuratively, if an incorrect dose is prescribed. They can even identify patients at highest risk of HAIs upon admission, based on records showing previous antibiotic prescriptions and recent hospitalizations.

  • They improve prescription practices among prescribers. By providing nearly immediate feedback to physicians, real-time surveillance systems reduce the inappropriate use of antimicrobials and increase concordance with antimicrobial guidelines. One study showed that real-time communication with prescribers resulted in an 11.6% decrease in doses of antibiotics in one year and increased pharmacist and prescriber satisfaction.2

  • They improve patient outcomes. When providers quickly learn that the prescribed medication poorly matches the confirmed infection, they can immediately put the patient on a more effective therapy, reducing treatment failures and lengths of stay.

  • They reduce costs. The hospital that saw more than 11% reduction in antibiotic doses also achieved cost savings of $370,000. Real-time surveillance minimizes the amount of money spent on ineffective, poorly matched therapies and reduces the length of stay of patients with hard to treat infections, particularly HAIs, whose care is unreimbursed.

1 Clark J. Providers and payers share responsibility in making antimicrobial stewardship programs a priority. Formulary Journal. October 20, 2014.

2 Doron S, Davidson LE. Antimicrobial Stewardship. Mayo Clin Proc. Nov 2011;86(11):1113-1123.

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Topics: Antimicrobial Stewardship

About the Author

Cathy Thompson, MBA Cathy is a Biomedical Engineer with an MBA by education and has spent the majority of her career in the healthcare industry marketing both medical devices and IT applications.