Improved Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings Is Critical

Improved Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings Is Critical

All antibiotic use contributes to resistance, and appropriate antibiotic use is key to slowing the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and protecting patient safety. Yet a third of the antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings such as doctors’ offices and emergency departments—about 47 million prescriptions annually—are unnecessary. And when antibiotics are the appropriate treatment, patients frequently aren’t given the right ones.

Pew works with a wide range of stakeholders—including federal agencies, health systems, and insurance providers—to improve antibiotic use in outpatient settings. It also supports efforts to advance antibiotic stewardship and research to better understand prescribing patterns and the effects of inappropriate antibiotic use. 

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Patient
Report

Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings

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Report

Antibiotic use in outpatient health care settings, such as primary care offices and emergency rooms, represents the majority of dollars spent on antibiotics for human health care in the United States. Beginning in 2015, The Pew Charitable Trusts convened a panel of experts, including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health and medical experts to analyze current outpatient antibiotic prescribing habits in the United States, determine targets for reducing inappropriate prescribing, and identify steps needed to reach these targets.

Outpatient antibiotics selection
Outpatient antibiotics selection
Issue Brief

National Targets to Improve Outpatient Antibiotic Selection

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Issue Brief

Ensuring the appropriate use of antibiotics is critical to improving patient care and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic use in outpatient health care settings, such as primary care clinics and emergency rooms, represents the majority of dollars spent on antibiotics for human health in the United States and should be a focus for efforts to ensure that antibiotics are prescribed only when necessary and that the appropriate antibiotic is selected.

Antibiotics Resistance
Antibiotics Resistance
Article

Antibiotics Are Overprescribed in Urgent Care

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Article

Patients seen at urgent care centers for common conditions such as asthma, the flu, and the common cold are more likely to receive antibiotics unnecessarily, compared with patients treated for the same illnesses at other types of health care facilities.

Antibiotic resistance
Antibiotic resistance
Article

Why Doctors Prescribe Antibiotics—Even When They Shouldn’t

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Article

For many common infections, clear guidelines exist for when antibiotics should be used and when they should not. For example, antibiotics cannot cure viral illnesses like the flu or the common cold, so there is no benefit to taking them for these conditions. Further, unnecessary use of antibiotics puts patients at risk for avoidable adverse effects. And yet, inappropriate antibiotic prescribing continues to be prevalent in the U.S.

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Getty Images
Fact Sheet

Outpatient Antibiotic Prescribing Varied Across the United States in 2017

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Fact Sheet

The prescribing of antibiotics in outpatient health care facilities, such as primary care clinics and emergency rooms, represents a large proportion of antibiotic use in the United States. One study found that these settings accounted for over half of all dollars spent on antibiotics in the U.S. in 2015.

Video

Reducing Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings: Jeff Linder

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Video

Primary care physicians are the first line of defense against antibiotic overuse.

Video

Reducing Antibiotic Use in Outpatient Settings: Teri Woo

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Video

Nurse practitioners can help families understand the need to preserve antibiotics.