Controlling Antibiotic Use Can Help Prevent the Spread of Infections

by | Published on Jun 17, 2014 | Healthcare News

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Does the body always need antibiotics? Research indicates that the answer is “probably not”. But that does not stop the physician from prescribing antibiotics if the patient has a really bad flu or the uncomfortable common cold. They do so even if they know that it’s not going to make any difference. Repeated and improper use of antibiotics is the main reasons for the increase in drug-resistant bacteria, say experts.

Do You Really Need Antibiotics?

Is this hard to believe? Research by the American Medical Association reveals that acute bronchitis has been considered to warrant the prescription of antibiotics by doctors for around 70% of the cases in spite of evidence that demonstrates the powerlessness of these drugs to fight respiratory disorders. Research presented at IDWeek 2013 revealed that acute bronchitis cannot be effectively treated by antibiotics. But antibiotics have been prescribed for bronchitis at a rate of around 73% in America for 30 years.

Maybe it’s because patients already expect that they need antibiotic dosage even before they reach the doctor’s place, and the doctors probably play in to the psychology while providing consulting service. But it does cause damage in the long run. According to an expert, research provides clear evidence that prescription of antibiotics needs to be as low as possible. But despite guidelines and educational efforts, this advice is rarely heeded by physicians.

Antibiotics are for Bacteria, not Viruses

Patients should educate themselves on the use of antibiotics and know when they are needed and when they will not help. For instance, influenza and the common cold are the result of virus attacks, and antibiotics which are for killing bacteria, cannot help with these conditions. So when common cold strikes, the best remedy is rest and intake of lots of fluids combined with some over-the-counter medicines just to alleviate the symptoms such as headache and fever. The cold would finish running its course in around a week.

While flu can be prevented with vaccination, patients can ask for some antiviral drug from their doctor to speed up recovery.  Sore throat isn’t always a condition that requires antibiotics. According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine, only 10% of adults with sore throat have strep which is the specific condition that requires an antibiotic prescription. However, the study points out that antibiotics are prescribed in 60% of sore throat cases.

Antibiotics Creating Drug-resistant ‘Superbugs’?

Excessive use of antibiotics could result in the creation of what’s called ‘superbugs’ in the body that are resistant to drugs. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has come up with some startling figures. It turns out that there are over 2 million people who contract infections resistant to antibiotics every year due to these superbugs. The other startling fact is that around 23,000 people die each year because of the inability of existing drugs to stop infections any longer because of the superbugs.

While antibiotics are supposed to kill the infection causing bacteria, there could also be other bacteria that are killed in the process. This is bad. And that’s not all. According to the Department of Health of Missouri, when a patient has antibiotics, the targeted bacteria are destroyed, but germs resistant to the drug keep growing. Drug-resistant germs proliferate mainly because of the wrong use of antibiotics.

Example of Resistant Bacteria

There are certain kinds of bacteria which are resistant naturally to some kinds of antibiotics. Genetic mutation could make other kinds of bacteria resistant. Gonorrhea, known for its infertility causing effects, is caused by neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria which are resistant to drugs. Incidentally, this is the second commonest reported infection in America with 820,000 cases every year. The increasing antibiotic resistance of the bacteria has affected treatment in around 30% of the cases.

You Do Need Antibiotics, Sometimes

Though research has given compelling evidence, it seems antibiotics cannot be avoided in all circumstances. Some conditions, such as sinus infection for example, could be caused by viruses, bacteria or fungi. Most of them are viral, however, and can be cured without antibiotics. But in the other cases, and when symptoms get really severe and cause nasal drainage, cough and high fever, doctors simply cannot keep from prescribing antibiotics. If antibiotics must be avoided, the patient must be asked to wait for a week to see if the symptoms and infection subsides. But this could also make the situation worse, which is why antibiotics are necessary.

Ear infections are another example of the unavoidability of antibiotics. They can be the result of virus or bacteria attacks, and only culturing the ear fluid by puncturing the eardrum could determine what caused the infection. Since that’s an invasive procedure physicians put patients on an antibiotic treatment without going for the culture, which is often what patients prefer as well. Waiting for the infection to get cured on its own could do more harm than good.

Be Aware and Communicate with Your Doctor

Patient awareness and better physician-patient communication can help control the way antibiotics are used and make care processes more efficient.

Prevention is better than cure. So prevent infection with good hand hygiene and safe food-handling. Do consult your doctor if you feel unwell, but do not take left over medications or share antibiotics. If you are in hospital, ask doctors and other health care personnel coming into the room if they have washed their hands.

Physicians should not prescribe antibiotics when you know they will not work.  Accurate documentation while diagnosing is necessary to be able to manage the data. This allows the coders to provide the correct medical coding as well.

As a patient, you should demand fewer antibiotics. You need to communicate with your physician. For instance, if you have a sore throat, you should ask your physician to confirm that you have strep before prescribing an antibiotic. You should also make sure that the doctor’s diagnosis and prescriptions have been made based on a physical exam and lab test.

The Physician Has his Work Cut Out 

The physician’s responsibility is quite great in that he calls the shots in ensuring the health and wellbeing of patients. Proper intervention of the problem with managed care is very necessary to ensure patients respond to treatments properly in future.

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