The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) community-acquired pneumonia core measures lead to unnecessary antibiotic administration by emergency physicians

Acad Emerg Med. 2009 Feb;16(2):184-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00320.x. Epub 2009 Jan 3.


Objectives: The objectives were to assess emergency physician (EP) understanding of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) core measures for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) guidelines and to determine their self-reported effect on antibiotic prescribing patterns.

Methods: A convenience sample of EPs from five medical centers in North Carolina was anonymously surveyed via a Web-based instrument. Participants indicated their level of understanding of the CMS CAP guidelines and the effects on their prescribing patterns for antibiotics.

Results: A total of 121 EPs completed the study instrument (81%). All respondents were aware of the CMS CAP guidelines. Of these, 95% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 92% to 98%) correctly understood the time-based guidelines for antibiotic administration, although 24% (95% CI = 17% to 31%) incorrectly identified the onset of this time period. Nearly all physicians (96%; 95% CI = 93% to 99%) reported institutional commitment to meet these core measures, and 84% (95% CI = 78% to 90%) stated that they had a department-based CAP protocol. More than half of the respondents (55%; 95% CI = 47% to 70%) reported prescribing antibiotics to patients they did not believe had pneumonia in an effort to comply with the CMS guidelines, and 42% (95% CI = 34% to 50%) of these stated that they did so more than three times per month. Only 40% (95% CI = 32% to 48%) of respondents indicated a belief that the guidelines improve patient care. Of those, this was believed to occur by increasing pneumonia awareness (60%; 95% CI = 52% to 68%) and improving hospital processes when pneumonia is suspected (86%; 95% CI = 80% to 92%).

Conclusions: Emergency physicians demonstrate awareness of the current CMS CAP guidelines. Most physicians surveyed reported the presence of institutional protocols to increase compliance. More than half of EPs reported that they feel the guidelines led to unnecessary antibiotic usage for patients who are not suspected to have pneumonia. Only 40% of EPs believe that CAP awareness and expedient care resulting from these guidelines has improved overall pneumonia-related patient care. Outcome-based data for non-intensive care unit CAP patients are lacking, and EPs report that they prescribe antibiotics when they may not be necessary to comply with existing guidelines.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S.
  • Community-Acquired Infections
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • United States


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents