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How Intermountain Healthcare’s Urgent Care Clinics are working to reduce antibiotic overuse

Intermountain Healthcare

If you’re sick but not in dire straits, where do you go when your doctor’s office is closed? For a lot of people, the answer is increasingly a nearby urgent care clinic. Nationally, urgent care clinics have been identified as a setting where antibiotics are more likely to be prescribed inappropriately when compared to other outpatient settings.

What does this mean? It means that antibiotics are often prescribed to patients when they’re not going to help you get better. Inappropriate use of antibiotics is leading to a variety of problems, including the development of drug-resistant bacteria and superbugs.

Did you know the following?:

• Most respiratory conditions are caused by viruses and antibiotics don’t cure viruses.

• Antibiotics may do more harm than good, with side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, rash, and yeast infections. 

• Antibiotics can cause a severe form of diarrhea called Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), which can be life-threatening.

• Antibiotics become less effective when used inappropriately.

To help combat this growing problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah Health a $1.8 million contract to implement a first-of-its-kind antibiotic stewardship best practices initiative across Intermountain’s urgent care network.

This initiative focuses on ensuring that antibiotic prescriptions are appropriate for respiratory infections at Intermountain Healthcare’s 39 clinics, both rural and urban – 32 InstaCare, 6 KidsCare, and 1 ConnectCare, which is a telemedicine platform (or “virtual”) clinic.

With this new initiative, clinicians will be able to monitor prescription rates for conditions such as sinusitis, ear infections, and bronchitis, while implementing the CDC best practices for use of antibiotics. “We want people to understand that we’re working to improve the overall use of antibiotics so that our patients are getting the most effective treatment possible and we’re contributing to the overuse issue,” said Anthony Wallin, MD, medical director of Intermountain’s urgent care clinics.

Patients will also play a critical role in this initiative. Visitors will see signage in Intermountain urgent care facilities reminding them that antibiotics are only needed for treating bacteria-based infections.

Patients should also be prepared to receive instructions from physicians for what’s called, “watchful waiting,” the practice of keeping an eye on symptoms to see if they improve with time.

In addition to watchful waiting, some patients who have a sinus or ear infection may get a delayed prescription from their doctor for an antibiotic that can be filled at a later date, if their symptoms don’t improve.

Intermountain has also developed fact sheets and therapy checklists for treating cold, flu and other symptoms.

You can find them, along with other resources related to this initiative at www.intermountainhealthcare.org/antibiotics

For nearly a century, bacteria-fighting drugs known as antibiotics have helped to control and destroy many of the harmful bacteria that can make us sick. But in recent decades, antibiotics have been losing their punch against some types of bacteria. In fact, certain bacteria are now unbeatable with today’s medicines. Sadly, the way we’ve been using antibiotics is helping to create new drug-resistant “superbugs.”

Superbugs are strains of bacteria that are resistant to several types of antibiotics. Each year these drug-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people nationwide and kill at least 23,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and staph infections are just a few of the dangers we now face.

Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections, such as strep throat and some types of pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, and ear infections. But these drugs don’t work at all against viruses, such as those that cause colds or flu.  Unfortunately, many antibiotics prescribed to people and to animals are unnecessary. And the overuse and misuse of antibiotics help to create drug-resistant bacteria.

This story contains sponsored content.

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