From allergy season to flu season and beyond, the common symptoms of a stuffy nose, cough and sore throat lead many individuals to their local clinic in search of relief. The presence of a fever increases the possibility of a bacterial infection; but most often the culprit is a virus, which requires time instead of prescription medication.
A variety of antibiotics have long been relied on to effectively treat bacterial infection. Using these valuable medications for extended periods or for a viral instead of a bacterial infection will actually reduce the effectiveness and result in the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“After 41 years of medical practice, the rise in drug resistant bacteria has been overwhelming. Simple infections can be more worrisome and problematic than ever before,” explained Robert Hohm, MD, internal medicine physician at Tschetter and Hohm Clinic in Huron, SD.
Educating consumers regarding the value of prevention and purpose of antibiotics is part of antibiotic stewardship. Dr. Hohm emphasized, “Precautions can be made to reduce the spread of infections such as hand washing, covering coughs, protecting wounds with appropriate bandages. Getting preventive immunizations, such as the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, can help reduce the spread of infections in our community and in the nation as well.”
Cheri Fast, RN, BSN, WOCN, program manager for Great Plains QIN, has been working with Dr. Hohm and other healthcare professionals in Huron, SD, to promote antibiotic stewardship efforts. Huron, with a population of just over 13,000, boasts a robust and unique healthcare community including a critical access hospital, a federally qualified health center and various independent providers serving a diverse demographic.
Fast gathered prescription data from local retail pharmacies, which indicated the number of antibiotic prescriptions had nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017. The resulting conversation with a few providers has now grown into a community-wide effort.
Leonard Wonnenberg, PA-C, from Horizon Health Care’s James Valley Community Health Center was among those joining the conversation. “This community project has been, and will be, a great community resource for my clinic, my patients and myself, as a provider and a patient. By collaborating with different healthcare professionals in the Huron area, the relationships we have made thus far and, hopefully will make in the future, will have a very positive impact for years to come.”
Those interested in participating in the antibiotic stewardship project meet the following four criteria:
- Commit to antibiotic stewardship efforts
- Act on their commitment
- Track and report infections and antibiotic usage
- Educate providers and patients on appropriate antibiotic use
“Antimicrobials are a very valuable resource to mankind, and I feel the urgent need to protect those remaining for our future generations! It has been encouraging to see the impact from two champion physicians, a pharmacist, a limited number of hospital staff and a small handful of clinic and pharmacy representatives,” added Pam Shoultz, RN, from Huron Regional Medical Center.
Next steps include the development of an antibiotic prescribing guide using an antibiogram to ensure that patients are getting the right antibiotic for the right diagnosis and lessen our resistance to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Shoultz expressed her excitement for the future of the project, “Huron is seeing growing interest and participation including medical professionals from the school system. With all of these folks on board to start or continue educating the community, we have a fighting chance to make a difference.”