Analysis

Medicare, Insurance Collaboration Bolsters Antibiotic Stewardship

Medicare, Insurance Collaboration Bolsters Antibiotic Stewardship© iStockphoto

Proposed standards for care include how well doctors control a patient's blood pressure.

To ensure that patients receive the highest-quality care, health care providers and others in our health system track progress against a wide range of outcomes and targets—for example, how well doctors control a patient’s high blood pressure. And one new measure looks to be especially valuable for ensuring that antibiotics are not overprescribed.

This standard, along with a number of others, was approved on Feb. 16 by the Core Quality Measures Collaborative, a partnership between Medicare and the nation’s private health insurance providers.

As an infectious disease doctor who oversees Pew’s work on the use of antibiotics in health care, I am especially encouraged by this development. Experts agree that we should almost never prescribe antibiotics for acute bronchitis, which is usually caused by a virus. Since antibiotics work on bacterial infections and have no effect on viruses, patients require them only in special—and rare—circumstances. Reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics for bronchitis will help diminish the chances that this type of bug will become resistant to these drugs, thus preserving their life-saving benefits.

This bronchitis measure is good news, but much work remains to develop additional measures to accurately capture how prescribers are using antibiotics and how they can reduce unnecessary prescriptions. Pew is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish targets for reducing unnecessary antibiotic use in treating a number of specific illnesses; we’re hopeful that our efforts can help inform this new collaboration as it continues to improve the care we receive.

David Hyun, M.D., is a senior officer for The Pew Charitable Trusts’ antibiotic resistance project, focusing on research and policy development pertaining to human stewardship of antibiotics.

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