IMC completes first-of-its-kind survey in hopes of reducing antibiotic-resistant superbugs

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Researchers at Intermountain Healthcare have announced the completion of a first-of-its-kind survey to identify and stratify antimicrobial stewardship programs into four separate groups on Wednesday. This is the first step for researchers working to reduce the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs while enhancing patient care.

Antimicrobial stewardship programs are used by healthcare systems to ensure that antibiotics are only being prescribed to patients who need them.  For medical professionals, there remains a lack of universal knowledge as the approaches to antibiotics varies wildly among healthcare systems.

“We brought together antimicrobial stewardship leaders from around the country to better understand both the structures and functions of their programs,” said researcher Whitney Buckel, PharmD, an antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist manager at Intermountain Healthcare. “We wanted to categorize different approaches to this work, with the hope of then identifying which methods are most effective and what can be used as models for other healthcare systems.

The survey brought together collaborations with scientists from Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of Utah Health. Twenty different healthcare systems were surveyed as part of the study, with large systems such as Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, and Veterans Health Administration being important contributors.

“You could find 50 different marathon training programs that would all get you to the finish line, but they may not all be efficient or applicable to you. It’s the same with antimicrobial stewardship programs,” added researcher Eddie Stenehjem, MD, medical director of antibiotic stewardship at Intermountain Healthcare. “We wanted to get a better idea of what is happening out in mostly in-patient healthcare settings so that we can start determining which programs are best suited to which kind of healthcare systems.”

There are four different models in the healthcare system they found in the U.S.: Collaborative Model, Centrally Coordinated Model, Collaborative, Consultative Network Model, and Centrally Led Model, which is the most used model at 40%.

These findings are becoming more important as healthcare systems merge and expand networks. As an example, 75 percent of hospitals in the United States and 90 percent of hospital beds were affiliated with a health system, said Dr. Stenehjem.

“In addition to healthcare systems becoming larger, they’re also coming together with similar electronic health records platforms and trying to streamline resources,” said Buckel. “Every healthcare system is federally mandated to have an antibiotic stewardship program, and everyone worked hard to meet the minimum. Now we’re trying to show the way to improve upon that if they haven’t already.”

The addition of these distinct categories to study will provide the basis for the next step as researchers work to understand which of the models is most effective.

“We hope bringing together these groups and starting to learn more about how we all approach antimicrobial stewardship is the start of a call to action and will also get healthcare systems to prioritize and fund centrally-lead stewardship programs,” said Dr. Stenehjem. “It makes our patient care better and benefits the overall health of our communities at the same time.”

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