Northwestern, USC, Teladoc to study antibiotic stewardship in telehealth: 4 things to know

Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and University of Southern California's Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics in Los Angeles partnered with Teladoc Health to study how physicians practicing remote care are prescribing antibiotics.

Here are four things to know about the research project:

1. An estimated one-third of all outpatient antibiotics — across all delivery sites, including primary care and urgent care settings — are unnecessarily prescribed, according to data cited by Teladoc. This is a problem for the healthcare industry, since unnecessary antibiotic use is associated with the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."

2. The five-year study led by Northwestern, USC and Teladoc will comprise a large-scale randomized quality improvement trial to assess various factors that may influence antibiotic prescribing in the virtual care setting. The project will both identify existing prescribing behaviors and develop new processes to determine how behavioral science interventions can encourage safe antibiotic use.

3. The researchers hope their work will contribute to emerging clinical quality standards for telehealth-delivered patient care.

"Telemedicine is the future of care, and so it's vital that stewardship strategies are systematically studied in this rapidly growing setting," said principal investigator Daniella Meeker, PhD, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and the USC Schaeffer Center.

4. The project is funded through a grant from HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and is part of the White House's National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

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