27% of ED visits tied to inappropriate antibiotics, study suggests

More than one-fourth of emergency department visits nationwide may result in inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions, according to a study published May 14 in Antimicrobial Stewardship & Healthcare Epidemiology. 

Researchers from Ann Arbor-based Michigan Medicine, Boston Medical Center and Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine conducted the study. Using data from the CDC's National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, they identified more than 152 million ED visits nationwide involving at least one antibiotic prescription between 2016 and 2021.

Researchers found 27.6% of visits resulted in inappropriate antibiotic prescribing. Of these, 54% had diagnoses where antibiotics may have been wrongly prescribed, while 46% involved conditions unrelated to antibiotics, suggesting possible coding errors. 

"Findings suggest that ED antibiotic stewardship initiatives should focus both on reducing antibiotic prescribing for infectious, antibiotic-inappropriate conditions and on improving coding quality for antibiotic prescriptions," researchers said.

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