An Implementation Science Approach to Antibiotic Stewardship in Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centers

Acad Emerg Med. 2020 Jan;27(1):31-42. doi: 10.1111/acem.13873. Epub 2019 Nov 22.


Background: Antibiotic stewardship efforts have expanded focus from inpatient to include outpatient settings. However, stewardship is urgently needed in acute care ambulatory settings: emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care centers (UCCs). Implementation of antibiotic stewardship in acute ambulatory care settings has been limited. Two major barriers to effective implementation exist: 1) lack of adaptation of successful outpatient stewardship interventions to the acute care ambulatory setting and 2) absence of rigorous measurement of implementation processes in EDs and UCCs in a manner that informs future scale and spread.

Objectives: Our objective was to apply an implementation science approach to address antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use in EDs and UCCs.

Methods: This study was a redesign of an evidence-based outpatient antibiotic stewardship intervention at participating EDs and UCCs using an innovative implementation science framework (dynamic adaptation process), adaptable for local clinical workflow and local champion provision. We evaluated multiple implementation outcome metrics throughout a cluster-randomized comparative effectiveness clinical trial of two approaches to the adapted antibiotic stewardship interventions.

Results: Our preimplementation phase included 21 in-depth interviews and online provider surveys (52% response rate). For the postimplementation survey, we had a 39% response rate. We identified common themes including patient expectations, lack of knowledge of existing guidelines, and maintenance of education over time. Additional themes indicated differences in modifications needed by type of clinical setting. Adoption of public commitment was high, with 79% of providers signing a commitment log, and 84% received public commitment flair. Signing of public commitment posters rate was 62%, as several sites chose not to use this component. Acceptability, fidelity, and appropriateness were also measured.

Conclusions: We demonstrate that implementation science approaches can help address the problem of unnecessary antibiotic use in EDs and UCCs with high acceptability and adoption. Similar approaches could be used to tailor quality improvement interventions in these settings.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship / methods*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Implementation Science
  • Male
  • Patient Preference
  • Quality Improvement


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents