November 17, 2016

Antibiotic resistance is a challenge for health care providers and patients. It is estimated that at least two million Americans each year become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, leading to 23,000 deaths. Four leading health care organizations in Virginia – the Medical Society of Virginia (MSV), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Health Quality Innovators (HQI), and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) – are collaborating to promote antibiotic stewardship best practices in support of public health and wellbeing. These efforts coincide with the national “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” (Nov. 14-20, 2016) sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When antibiotics lose effectiveness in treating infections, the public faces a risk of having fewer treatment options for serious illnesses. Proper use of the correct antibiotic, when needed, is an important way to slow the development of antibiotic-resistant infections. Today’s public event highlights ongoing antibiotic stewardship work involving these four Virginia health care organizations, which have also planned a Feb. 1, 2017 event in downtown Richmond focused on due diligence efforts health care providers can undertake to support antibiotic stewardship program success, and to highlight successful work by hospitals on that front. That event precedes VHHA’s sixth annual Virginia Patient Safety Summit (Feb. 2-3, 2017) in downtown Richmond. The two-day summit focuses on enhanced patient safety, reduced risk of error, and improved effectiveness in health care delivery. This year’s theme is “The Human Factor: Optimizing Safety for Patients and Providers.” Click here to learn more information or to register.

Speaking about antibiotic stewardship, Virginia Department of Health Chief Deputy Commissioner for Public Health & Preparedness Dr. Hughes Melton noted that “Antibiotics have been used for the last 70 years to treat patients who have infectious diseases. Since the 1940s, these drugs have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, these drugs have been used so widely and for so long that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective. Once antibiotics are not effective in treating infections, we are at risk of having no treatment available for very serious illnesses. Since it will be many years before new antibiotics are available to treat some resistant infections, we need to improve the use of antibiotics that are currently available. Antibiotic stewardship is so important that it is one of the 14 goals that make up the Virginia Plan for Well-Being, which also includes the prevention of Healthcare-Associated Infections.”

“Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria that make us sick adapt to our medications and stop responding to antibiotics,” added Dr. Samuel Bartle, Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics for Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, and Medical Society of Virginia member. “When this happens, we lose the ability to treat antibiotic infections. An action as simple as not taking the full prescription, even if you are feeling better, can give bacteria a chance to develop resistance. Antibiotic resistance is already occurring throughout the world, leaving some of our existing medications useless against bacterial infections.”

HQI, VDH, and VHHA co-chair Virginia’s Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Advisory Council. HQI recently concluded five years of work with Virginia hospitals on an initiative to prevent several types of HAI, noted HQI Program Manager Sheila McLean

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recognized our efforts in helping a group of facilities with the highest infection rates in the state to reduce infections to a rate below the national average. The credit for that belongs to Virginia hospitals that have demonstrated an ability to adopt and sustain evidence-based processes for safer patient care,” McLean said. “As the participating health care organizations move forward in collaboration on helping patients and providers use antibiotics wisely and prevent infections across the continuum of care, we encourage patients and providers to join the fight against antibiotic resistance by using these powerful medications wisely.”

“Having this degree of health care collaboration to promote judicious use of antibiotics and to combat the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is important,” said VHHA Senior Medical Advisor Dr. J. Thomas Ryan. “Patients presenting themselves for infection treatment can enter the health care system through many different points. Sometimes it is through the primary care physician setting. Oftentimes, it is through hospital emergency departments and health system urgent care centers. Working together, health care providers can develop the best approaches to address the challenge of antibiotic-resistance.”
Learn more about antibiotic stewardship here and here.

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