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Webinars Urge Docs to Take Care with Antibiotics

December 9, 2013

The discovery of penicillin marked a major turning point in medicine, introducing doctors to some of the most powerful tools at their disposal: antibiotics. But just as doctors used antibiotics to save millions of lives, physicians who overuse the drugs contribute to a massive public health threat: antibiotic resistance.

Tackling antibiotic resistance means talking with physicians about the major role they play in decreasing the improper use of antibiotics, the practice that drives antibiotic resistance. To start the conversation, the Georgia Healthcare Associated Infections Advisory Committee (GAHAIAC) will host three December webinars to discuss the role of physicians in antibiotic stewardship programs.

Jeanne Negley, health care-associated infections surveillance director for DPH, said the goal is to begin fostering antibiotic stewardship, a set of strategies to improve the use of antibiotic medications with emphasis on reducing unnecessary cost, decreasing resistance to antibiotics and improving patient health outcomes.

“When we talk about stewardship in a hospital setting, we are talking about changing prescribers’ behaviors,” Negley said. “Effective hospital antibiotic stewardship programs are led by physicians or pharmacists in the hospital, so we have designed programs to support these leaders.”

The upcoming webinars will highlight practical tools, including strategies on how to reevaluate if an antibiotic is still necessary after a specific time period and standardizing length of treatment for common diagnoses associated with antibiotic overuse. Webinar participants will also receive a resource list to assist them in future stewardship activities.

The webinars, co-hosted by the Southeast AIDS Training Center, are part of GAHAIAC’s statewide plan for antibiotic stewardship. The committee hosted its first workshop for pharmacists in October, which discussed the way antibiotics are used and how health care providers can reduce antibiotic overuse.

Negley said an effective stewardship program can limit the emergence and transmission of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

“Our statewide plan has us first focusing on hospitals,” Negley said. “It has been estimated that about half of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary.”

When patients take antibiotics unnecessarily, bacteria of all kinds in their bodies have the chance to develop ways to fend off the drugs designed to kill them, leading bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.

Antibiotic resistance is a universal health problem of increasing concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million Americans become infected with drug-resistant bacteria each year, and 23,000 die from their disease.

Physician leadership is integral in starting, rejuvenating, and sustaining an effective antimicrobial stewardship program in health care settings. Physicians have the opportunity to lead the stewardship program and begin to address antibiotic resistant before it is too late.

The webinars will be offered Dec. 9 from 5-6 p.m., Dec. 11 and Dec. 12 from 12-1 p.m. Registration is free but required for attendance.

For more details on the webinar sessions and to register, visit the event page on DPH's website.