pills and bottle

By Mountain Family Health Centers

Mountain Family Health Centers has been named to the Colorado Outpatient Antibiotic Stewardship Champion Honor Roll for taking steps to ensure the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics. It’s part of an effort to improve antibiotic safety and slow the spread of antibiotic resistance. Resistance is one of the three greatest threats to health in the U.S., according to Telligen/Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, resulting in 23,000 deaths each year from resistant infection. At the same time, at least 30% of antibiotic courses prescribed nationally in the outpatient setting are unnecessary.

Family Nurse Practitioner Jenny Lang led the effort for Mountain Family to participate in a program coordinated by Telligen/Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to build on what Mountain Family already does to responsibly prescribe antibiotics. Lang is also Site Medical Director for the Glenwood Springs and Edwards health centers.

“People want antibiotics,” Lang says, “and don’t understand that antibiotics more can be more harm than good. Using them incorrectly can contribute to resistance—and then when you do need it, the antibiotic is not effective and you might require multiple courses.”

As part of the program, Mountain Family providers spend more time talking with patients about antibiotics and when it’s appropriate to use them. For example, it’s common for patients to think that treating bronchitis requires antibiotics. But bronchitis is believed to be a virus in most cases, so antibiotics are not the best treatment.

“Instead of saying ‘You’re fine, it’s viral,’ ” Lang says providers must expand on that. “Providers instead say: ‘You have a viral infection and antibiotics will not help cure the infection sooner.’ Then taking more time to explain the difference between viruses and bacteria and the different treatments for both.”

Lang explains patient education also means explaining how inappropriate antibiotic use can accidentally contribute to antibiotic resistance developing in an entire community—and the need for stronger and stronger antibiotics when resistance is identified.

Mountain Family Health Centers will continue to participate in the program for ongoing advocacy for continuous provider education, to ensure high quality care. For more information about best practices, click here for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Core Elements of Outpatient Antibiotic Stewardship.