For decades, the performance of antimicrobial stewardship programs (ASPs) has been measured by incidence rates of hospital-onset Clostridioides difficile and other infections due to multidrug-resistant bacteria. However, these represent indirect and nonspecific ASP metrics. They are often confounded by factors beyond an ASP's control, such as changes in diagnostic testing methods or algorithms and the potential of patient-to-patient transmission. Whereas these metrics remain useful for global assessment of healthcare systems, antimicrobial use represents a direct metric that separates the performance of an ASP from other safety and quality teams within an institution. The evolution of electronic medical records and healthcare informatics has made measurements of antimicrobial use a reality. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's initiative for reporting antimicrobial use and standardized antimicrobial administration ratio in hospitals is highly welcomed. Ultimately, ASPs should be evaluated based on what they do best and what they can control, that is, antimicrobial use within their own institution. This narrative review critically appraises existing stewardship metrics and advocates for adopting antimicrobial use as the primary performance measure. It proposes novel formulas to adjust antimicrobial use based on quality of care and microbiological burden at each institution to allow for meaningful inter-network and inter-facility comparisons.
Keywords: Acinetobacter baumannii; Antibiotics; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; antibiotic utilization; broad-spectrum agents; carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae; extended-spectrum beta-lactamases; hospital epidemiology; infection control; infection prevention; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; resistance.