CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is Nov. 18 through 24. Over the last several years, WellSpan Summit Health has worked to create protocols that ensure patients are only given antibiotics for illnesses when absolutely necessary - so those patients don't harbor or pass bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Data shows the effort, which began in 2017, has been successful.
"The work we're doing is helping keep our community members safe," said Dr. Stephen Flack of WellSpan Family Care and medical director of primary care. "When we started our effort to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use, antibiotics were prescribed for about 70% of bronchitis cases - an illness people often do not need an antibiotic to treat."
Dr. Flack noted that in October 2019, antibiotics were prescribed for only 28% of bronchitis cases.
At the inpatient level, pharmacy staff at WellSpan Waynesboro Hospital has led the charge in creating procedures to ensure patients hospitalized there and at WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital are prescribed fewer unnecessary antibiotics through work from its interdisciplinary Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee.
"Historically, antimicrobial and antibiotic overuse in hospitals has caused adverse reactions for patients - from organ failure to increased microbial resistance and an uptick in C.diff infections," explained Dr. Jarett Logsdon, pharmacy manager and infectious disease pharmacist.
Logsdon said the passion and teamwork of everyone on the Antimicrobial Stewardship Committee has translated to significant decreases in unnecessary antibiotic use, decreased patient risk for C.diff and decreased antimicrobial resistance.
"People often think when they're sick and not feeling well, they should be able to get medicine to help them feel better. However, antibiotics are only effective at treating bacterial illnesses - not viruses - so, providers have to be very cautious when prescribing," explained Dr. Flack.
He said the more antibiotics a person takes, the higher risk they have for treatment-resistant, "super-bug" bacteria unable to be cured by common antibiotics.
"That's concerning, because not a lot of new antibiotics are being developed," Dr. Flack noted. "If you use too many of the ones available and bacteria becomes resistant to those, it gets much harder to effectively treat your illness when you really need the power of that antibiotic."
When you're sick with cold, flu or other virus and don't need an antibiotic, Dr. Flack said the best thing you can do is take measures for self-care.
"Stay home and rest, drink fluids, eat if you feel hungry and manage minor aches and pains with over-the-counter medicine. To help with nasal congestion, use a cool-mist vaporizer or saline nasal spray."
How patients can help
There are several ways patients can help providers in their effort to responsibly prescribe antibiotics:
- Understand that you might not always be prescribed an antibiotic when you're sick and see a health-care provider - and remember there's an important reason behind it.
- Know that sometimes viruses can linger and cause bacteria to form, which is why you may need an antibiotic after initially not needing one.
- Make a commitment to your health and your family's health that you will only take an antibiotic if it's absolutely needed.
- If you're prescribed an antibiotic, make sure you take it exactly as prescribed - and finish the entire round of medication even if you feel better.
- As with other medications prescribed for you, never share them with friends or family.