How to Improve Antibiotic Use Through Patient Education

Lauri A. Hicks, DO, captain, US Public Health Service, director, Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, medical director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about the importance of educating patients on antibiotic use.

Lauri A. Hicks, DO, captain, US Public Health Service, director, Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, medical director, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talks about the importance of educating patients on antibiotic use.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“We need to work on improving patient knowledge about when antibiotics are needed and when they’re not needed. Certainly, it’s important for parents of young children to know when they’re going to their pediatrician’s office or to their provider to make sure that they know when an antibiotic is appropriate and when an antibiotic is not needed. In certain circumstances, like [with] ear infections, it may be very reasonable to watch and wait. We also need to work on educating pretty much everyone who’s involved in either prescribing or in healthcare, and really the more education related to antibiotic prescribing that comes from the different directions, both [on] the patient level, the provider level and the administrative support and the nursing staff, can really help to improve how antibiotics are being used.

The other important thing is that we know that education alone is not sufficient to change antibiotic practices and prescribing, especially when we’re talking about provider behavior or doctors’ prescribing habits. We’ve learned that providers are really influenced by feedback; so, if they see that they are prescribing at a higher rate than their peers, they are much more likely to change their prescribing habits, especially when we’re looking at rates of prescribing for conditions that don’t warrant antibiotic use, like bronchitis and colds.

There are a number of different types of interventions that are needed; something that I think is really a favorite of mine, which is a poster-based intervention, you just ask for the doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant to just sign on [and] to commit to prescribing appropriately for acute respiratory conditions, the conditions that lead to the most unnecessary antibiotic use. If they post that in their office in the exam rooms, there is evidence that this drops inappropriate antibiotic prescribing by 20%.”