Not feeling well? Professionals at Great Plains Health say if your doctor knows what’s best, you may not leave with an antibiotic.
In the last year, the antibiotics stewardship team at the hospital has worked to reduce antibiotics overuse. The team was honored for its efforts last month by the Nebraska Hospital Association’s 2017 Quest for Excellence Award. The award recognizes efforts to improve hospital quality and patient care, and represents the “highest level of professional acknowledgment” in improvement recognition, according to a press release from the hospital.
Dr. Eduardo Freitas, an infection control doctor, said antibiotics themselves aren’t problematic. The problem arises when people overuse or misuse them, and bacteria become resistant to the drugs.
While antibiotics fight bacterial infections, they’re not effective against viral infections, despite what some may think, Freitas said. And some people misuse antibiotics — a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for seven days, but “people will feel better on day three and stop taking it,” Freitas said.
After penicillin was discovered in 1929 — the BBC reports that it became widely recognized in the 1940s — “antibiotics are probably the best thing medicine ever created,” Freitas said. “But like everything else, there’s positives and negatives.”
As bacteria built resistance to antibiotics, it threatened a future in medicine.
“If we don’t do this now, the drugs won’t work,” Freitas said. Should the trend of resistance continue, antibiotics could be ruined “when you really need it.”
At an appointment, doctors can offer quick diagnostic tests that show a “marker of bacterial infection,” Freitas said. The tests are new to the hospital as of last December. If the infection turns out to be viral, a doctor will instead prescribe over-the-counter medication and lots of rest.
If a patient doesn’t feel better in five days, they should come back — their infection may have become bacterial, or the doctor may have misdiagnosed them, Freitas said.
But patient education also matters. Patients who don’t feel well want to feel better, and fast. Having been convinced that an antibiotic will cure them, some patients will go from their doctor’s office to a different medical center until they are prescribed an antibiotic, Freitas said.
The antibiotics stewardship team meets with a pharmacist and an infection-control nurse Monday through Friday. They speak with and give advice to medical professionals who prescribe medicine.
So far, the efforts seem to work, Freitas said. In the year since the hospital amped its efforts, the team has seen less of one specific infection that arose due to antibiotic overuse.
According to the press release, the antibiotics stewardship team consists of Barbara Petersen, chief quality officer; Jenny Lantis, infection control coordinator; Tonja Hawley, pharmacist; and Freitas.