Healthcare practitioners must be own ‘watchdogs’ in antibiotic prescribing

The overprescription of antibiotics is a runaway problem in the healthcare industry, increasing antibiotic resistance globally. The issue is compounded by the fact that patients are more satisfied and tend to rate urgent care centers higher when they are prescribed antibiotics during a visit––even if they might not need the medicines.

In an analysis of more than six million urgent care visits from July 2017 to June 2018, antibiotics were prescribed in 52.1 percent of total visits, according to a report from EHR provider DocuTAP. That figure is well above the 39 percent found by the CDC, which also conducted an analysis of the prevalence of antibiotic prescriptions in urgent care visits.

By comparison, the CDC measured prescribing patterns from 2014 data, including claims data from more than 2.7 million patients and more than three million visits. That study also revealed instances of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Among the findings in the agency’s study was that 45.7 percent of patients that visited an urgent care clinic for respiratory conditions were given antibiotics which were deemed inappropriate.

In DocuTAP’s analysis, only 32.4 percent of prescriptions were considered inappropriate.

Urgent care remains higher than retail health, medical offices and emergency departments in incidence of antibiotic prescribing, according to the data. However, urgent care centers are inappropriately prescribing antibiotics at a rate similar to other healthcare segments.

Urgent care centers have grown significantly over the past several years, with consumers rating them higher on average than emergency departments due to convenience and an overall better patient experience.

“As on-demand healthcare becomes an increasingly important component of healthcare in America, urgent care organizations must continue to observe the treatments and trends that arise to improve patient care,” the study reads. “... While patients regularly seek out urgent care for respiratory conditions and often expect an antibiotic prescription to help them feel better, practitioners have to be their own watchdogs, ensuring they’re committed to appropriate prescribing practices.”