Two million people in the United States are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year, and approximately 23,000 people die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, knowledge of antibiotic resistance – what it is and why it matters for health care delivery – has been slow to reach many providers in health care settings, as well as the general public.
“We’re looking at 30 or 40 years down the road; if we don’t have good stewardship now, we’re going to encounter serious difficulties in combating even simple infections in the future,” says Catherine Darnell, the National Health Care Safety Network Enrollment Advisor at Mountain-Pacific Quality Health – the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN–QIO) serving Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories.
It is this knowledge gap that inspired Mountain-Pacific, in conjunction with the Wyoming Department of Health, to start the 41-member Wyoming Infection Prevention Advisory Group (WIPAG) in early 2015 to help raise awareness of antibiotic use in the state. An Antibiotic Stewardship Subcommittee emerged from this group with the aim of assessing antibiotic programs and use among Wyoming hospitals, and convening stakeholders to improve stewardship practices.
“We’re looking at 30 or 40 years down the road; if we don’t have good stewardship now, we’re going to encounter serious difficulties in combating even simple infections in the future.”
Since starting WIPAG and the Antibiotic Stewardship Subcommittee, Mountain-Pacific has succeeded in helping keep antibiotic stewardship front and center at statewide events like the 2016 Annual Wyoming Infection Prevention Conference, as well as more locally focused webinars and trainings. They also have developed tools for patients and providers, such as a newsletter, brochures and educational booklets. The subcommittee is also in the process of developing a guide for antibiotic stewardship in rural hospitals, which are common in Wyoming.
Mountain-Pacific already has been planning the next stage of its work. The QIN-QIO plans to hire a pharmacist in 2017 who will serve as a local expert on antibiotic resistance and assist area providers across the health care spectrum in creating a uniform policy and standard protocol for antibiotic stewardship, especially among Wyoming’s 26 hospitals.
“We’re focused first on the hospitals, getting buy-in from administrators,” says Darnell. “We think there will be a trickle-down effect from there to providers, clinics, as well as nursing homes and their staff.”
According to Darnell, Mountain-Pacific is seeing an increased interest in WIPAG within the state’s health care community, and this interest is evidence that educational efforts about the importance of developing better protocols for how and when antibiotics are prescribed and used are starting to pay off.
“We believe we’re going to see a lot of our efforts come to fruition in 2017,” she says.