Hospitals using ‘swat teams’ to fight superbugs

The Wall Street Journal reports that hospitals are increasingly using antibiotic ‘swap teams’ to find drug-resistant bacteria. Programs include implementing antimicrobial stewardship programs that monitor the use of antibiotics and restricting prescriptions of certain drugs when they become less effective. Roughly 2 million hospital patients acquire nosocomial bacterial infections annually in the United States, resulting in approximately 90,000 deaths. Such mitigation programs bring together pharmacists, infectious-disease specialists, and microbiologists to track prescribed antibiotics and bacteria’s susceptibility to those drugs.

The Wall Street Journal story notes that these efforts come as Congress considers legislation to create a federal office of antimicrobial resistance and a public-health network charged with detecting emerging resistant strains of bacteria before they become a national threat. Further, the National Quality Forum this fall intends to issue revised safety standards requiring hospitals to implement antimicrobial stewardship programs. Hospitals, meanwhile, will continue to face increasing cost pressures to better manage their antibiotic prescriptions as Medicare and some private insurers stop paying for certain preventable hospital-acquired injuries and infections.

Hospital purchasing groups, such as VHA, an alliance of more than 1,400 not-for-profit facilities, and Premier, which represents more than 2,000 hospitals, have both launched antimicrobial stewardship programs to help members track and fight antibiotic resistance. (SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing , http://www.advisory.com, September 3, 2008; Wall Street Journal , http://www.wsj.com, September 3, 2008, Landro [subscription required])