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3 Tips for Prescribing Antibiotics, CDC Offers

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 18, 2010

For physicians, Srinivasan says, there are three simple fixes to make the system work better to prevent inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. They are:

  1. Make sure that whenever you write an order for an antibiotic, include not just the name of the drug and the dose, but the duration and the indication. "Rather than having an order that says 'Penicillin, 500 mg,' we'd like it to say 'Penicillin, 500 mg for five days for pneumonia,' " Srinivasan says. 

"It's not that much more information, but it's important." That's because patients care responsibility often is passed from one hospital or intensivist to another, "and sometimes patients are continued on antibiotics longer than necessary."

"This allows them to say, Oh wait a minute, this patient doesn't have pneumonia, they actually have heart failure, but Dr. Williams put them on antibiotics for pneumonia because that's what we thought the patient had two days ago. Let's stop it now."

2.  Whenever you're prescribing an antibiotic, to make sure you get appropriate microbiology cultures order the sample that's necessary before the antibiotics are given. "That way when you get the results back, you can see either that no bacteria grew from the culture, or the patient's bacteria is resistant, and the type of antibiotic needs to be changed. Or, you may find out that the patient is on a broad spectrum antibiotic when a much narrower one would work."

3. Adopt "time out" procedures similar to those used in surgical settings.

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