Doctors and health officials have long argued that stopping the unnecessary use of antibiotics is the best way to stop the spread of drug-resistant infections. But a new study suggests another benefit: Millions of dollars would be saved by halting the use of antibiotics that don’t help patients.
Researchers, writing in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, evaluated a seven-year program at University of Maryland Medical Center designed to halt the prescription of antibiotics for viral infections and other conditions the drugs can’t treat.
Researchers found the program resulted in $3 million in savings for the hospital's annual budget by its third year. After seven years, it had cut antibiotic spending nearly in half.
The cuts “did not compromise quality of patient care,” researchers said, but saved money for many hospital departments – including the cancer center, trauma center, surgical and medical intensive care units and transplant service.
The study found no increases in mortality, length of stay, or readmission to the hospital.
"Our research shows that investing in stewardship not only helps preserve our dwindling antibiotic tools, it can also help to eliminate wasteful healthcare spending," said Dr. Harold Standiford, the study's lead author. "We believe it's an important lesson to keep in mind when considering the allocation of resources to stewardship programs."
The program utilized a team of infectious disease specialists who monitored the hospital’s use of antibiotics and intervened when the drugs were prescribed in cases for which they were likely to be ineffective.