Antibiotics are one of the great discoveries in medicine and the most important weapon in fighting bacterial diseases. Infections that were once deadly can now be cured, and antibiotics have made many life-saving treatments possible. However, when it comes to antibiotics, more is not always better.

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking health care professionals to Get Smart About Antibiotics. Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is an annual observance intended to engage around antibiotic stewardship in the outpatient, inpatient and animal health settings. The Get Smart website has a variety of resources for health professionals and patients.

AHA, through our Physician Leadership Forum (PLF), has been a strong advocate for antimicrobial stewardship. Hospital antimicrobial stewardship programs have proven effective in improving appropriate antibiotic use, reducing adverse events and enhancing quality of care by ensuring the appropriate selection, dose, route and duration of antimicrobial therapy.

In Appropriate Use of Medical Resources, a white paper released in November 2013, the PLF identified five areas where hospitals, in partnership with their clinical staff and patients, should look to reduce non-beneficial care. Last year our toolkit on antibiotic stewardship in partnership with the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), CDC and other national organizations, was released. To be effective, antibiotic stewardship programs need to engage patients, providers and administrators to work together to appropriately use antibiotics. It is composed of three sections:

  • Hospital and Health System Resources - includes an assessment tool, the starting point in developing or enhancing a successful antibiotic stewardship program. This tool, a checklist developed by the CDC should be shared with key staff members. For ease of use, it is divided into two sections, one for those just beginning a program, the other for those who wish to enhance an existing program.
  • Clinician Resources - includes webinars, clinical evidence supporting appropriate use of antibiotics, implementation instructions, and related articles.
  • Patient Resources - includes frequently asked questions, pamphlets, and handouts on how patients can best engage in their care and resources on appropriate use of antibiotics.

You can download a copy of the toolkit from the AHA website at: www.aha.org/appropriateuse. Antibiotic resistance is a serious issue, but by using antibiotics only when they are really needed, we can turn the tide in this fight.