Background: Increasing rates of antimicrobial resistance and the role antibiotic overuse plays in contributing to this problem have been widely documented and have prompted appeals to change prescribing practices. How to actually achieve such changes represents a major challenge. As part of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Breakthrough Series project Improving Prescribing Practices (IPP), in 1997-1998, Cook County Hospital (Chicago) worked with other institutions that chose antibiotics as their focus in this national collaborative.
Practical suggestions: Practical suggestions are offered within six categories--adopting a general approach to improving antibiotic prescribing (marshalling credible evidence, addressing physician concerns and skepticism, and removing barriers to make it easier for prescribers to change); rethinking guidelines (providing syndrome-based guidance, revising national guidelines for local use, defining scenarios in which drug(s) can be safely withheld, offering alternatives, prospectively resolving conflicts over drug of choice and empiric regimens, and defining situations in which immediate treatment is and is not critical); getting the message out and changes implemented (using antibiotic order forms, computer order entry, and infectious disease specialist consultation); building viable linkages to leverage change (bridging disciplines); improving measurement; and promoting nondrug strategies and patients' roles in treating and preventing infection.
Conclusion: Antimicrobials are unique, being the only class of drug therapy that affects not only the patient to whom it is prescribed but other current and future patients as well. Institutions therefore have a special responsibility to ensure their efficient and judicious use. It is often easier to prescribe antibiotics than to exercise restraint.