Antibiotic overuse is a classic example of “too much of a good thing.” These medicines protect us against a multitude of bacterial illnesses, expanding human lifespans and allowing us to carry out a range of activities without fear. But when people take too many antibiotics, or take them for the wrong illnesses, they harm their own health while making the drugs less effective for everyone.
Nursing homes have a particularly serious problem with antibiotic overuse, given that as much as 75 percent of antibiotics used in those facilities are prescribed incorrectly. But through antibiotic stewardship programs, nursing homes are cutting down on this trend so antibiotics remain effective for everyone.
What are Antibiotic Stewardship Programs?
Designed to make sure antibiotics are used appropriately, antibiotic stewardship programs consist of seven key steps:
- Leadership Commitment- Leaders of a medical facility must show that they are devoted to using antibiotics safely and appropriately.
- Accountability- Medical facilities must clearly determine who is in charge of making sure antibiotics are used correctly.
- Drug Expertise- Facilities must have access to professionals with the training and experience to improve how antibiotics are used.
- Action- Facilities must take one or more concrete actions to improve antibiotic use.
- Tracking- Facilities must monitor both the use of antibiotics and any medical complications associated with them.
- Reporting- Facilities must share antibiotic use information with their care providers and other staff members.
- Education- Facilities must offer resources that providers, staff, patients, and patients’ families can use to learn about proper antibiotic use and the consequences of using them incorrectly.
While antibiotic stewardship programs are important for any healthcare facility, they’re particularly valuable in nursing homes. In the United States alone, more than 4 million people reside in nursing homes, and 70 percent of those residents are on antibiotics. If many of those antibiotics are being prescribed incorrectly, the consequences could be catastrophic.
The more antibiotics are used, the more opportunities there are for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop. So unless nursing homes get their antibiotic use under control, they could be responsible for the development of extremely dangerous bacterial strains.
Besides creating dangerous bacteria, antibiotic overuse harms the people who are prescribed them. Many antibiotics have harmful side effects, including stomach issues, diarrhea, and rashes. They can also cause severe allergic reactions, which can be deadly. Considering that many nursing home residents are in less than perfect health, it is unacceptable for those facilities to prescribe them antibiotics they don’t need.
Atkinson’s Pharmacy Group supports antibiotic stewardship programs, and offers resources and support to help care facilities use these medicines effectively. For more information on these and other essential drugs, take a look at our website today.