Objective: Evaluate the evidence for effects of inpatient antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) on patient, prescribing, and microbial outcomes.
Design: Systematic review.
Methods: Search of MEDLINE (2000 through November 2013), Cochrane Library, and reference lists of relevant studies. We included English language studies with patient populations relevant to the United States (ie, infectious conditions and prescriptions required for antimicrobials) that evaluated ASP interventions and reported outcomes of interest. Study characteristics and outcomes data were extracted and reviewed by investigators and trained research personnel.
Results: Few intervention types (eg, audit and feedback, guideline implementation, and decision support) substantially impacted patient outcomes, including mortality, length of stay, readmission, or incidence of Clostridium difficile infection. However, most interventions were not powered adequately to demonstrate impacts on patient outcomes. Most interventions were associated with improved prescribing patterns as measured by decreased antimicrobial use or increased appropriate use. Where reported, ASPs were generally associated with improvements in microbial outcomes, including institutional resistance patterns or resistance in the study population. Few data were provided on harms, sustainability, or key intervention components. Studies were typically of short duration, low in methodological quality, and varied in study design, populations enrolled, hospital setting, ASP intent, intervention composition and implementation, comparison group, and outcomes assessed.
Conclusions: Numerous studies suggest that ASPs can improve prescribing and microbial outcomes. Strength of evidence was low, and most studies were not designed adequately to detect improvements in mortality or other patient outcomes, but obvious adverse effects on patient outcomes were not reported.