Successfully reducing antibiotic prescribing in nursing homes

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014 May;62(5):907-12. doi: 10.1111/jgs.12784. Epub 2014 Apr 2.


Objectives: To determine whether antibiotic prescribing can be reduced in nursing homes using a quality improvement (QI) program that involves providers, staff, residents, and families.

Design: A 9-month quasi-experimental trial of a QI program in 12 nursing homes (6 comparison, 6 intervention) conducted from March to November 2011.

Setting: Nursing homes in two regions of North Carolina, roughly half of whose residents received care from a single practice of long-term care providers.

Participants: All residents, including 1,497 who were prescribed antibiotics.

Intervention: In the intervention sites, providers in the single practice and nursing home nurses received training related to prescribing guidelines, including situations for which antibiotics are generally not indicated, and nursing home residents and their families were sensitized to matters related to antibiotic prescribing. Feedback on prescribing was shared with providers and nursing home staff monthly.

Measurements: Rates of antibiotic prescribing for presumed urinary tract, skin and soft tissue, and respiratory infections.

Results: The QI program reduced the number of prescriptions ordered between baseline and follow-up more in intervention than in comparison nursing homes (adjusted incidence rate ratio = 0.86, 95% confidence interval = 0.79-0.95). Based on baseline prescribing rates of 12.95 prescriptions per 1,000 resident-days, this estimated adjusted incidence rate ratio implies 1.8 prescriptions avoided per 1,000 resident-days.

Conclusion: This magnitude of effect is unusual in efforts to reduce antibiotic use in nursing homes. Outcomes could be attributed to the commitment of the providers; outreach to providers and staff; and a focus on common clinical situations in which antibiotics are generally not indicated; and suggest that similar results can be achieved on a wider scale if similar commitment is obtained and education provided.

Keywords: antibiotic prescribing; nursing homes; quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Incidence
  • Infections / drug therapy*
  • Infections / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Nursing Homes / organization & administration*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents