A Primary Hospital Antimicrobial Stewardship Intervention on Pneumonia Treatment Duration

A primary hospital pharmacy intervention resulted in a significant decrease in antibiotic therapy duration for the treatment of uncomplicated pneumonia.

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The safety and the efficacy of shorter durations of antibiotic therapy for uncomplicated pneumonia have been clearly established in the past decade.1,2 Guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the American Thoracic Society have been available since 2007. These expert consensus statements recommend that uncomplicated community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) should be treated for 5 to 7 days, as long as the patient exhibits signs and symptoms of clinical stability.3 Similarly, recently updated guidelines for hospital-acquired and ventilator-associated pneumonias call for short-course therapy.4 Despite this guidance, pneumonia treatment duration is often discordant.5 Unnecessary antimicrobial use is associated with greater selection pressure on pathogens, increased risk of adverse events (AEs), and elevated treatment costs.6 The growing burden of antibiotic resistance coupled with limited availability of new antibiotics requires judicious use of these agents.

The IDSA guidelines for Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) note that exposure to antimicrobial agents is the most important modifiable risk factor for the development of CDI.7 Longer durations of antibiotics increase the risk of CDI compared with shorter durations.8,9 Antibiotics are a frequent cause of drug-associated AEs and likely are underestimated.10 To decrease the unwanted effects of excessive therapy, IDSA and CDC suggest that antimicrobial stewardship interventions should be implemented.11-13

Antimicrobial stewardship efforts in small community hospitals (also known as district, rural, general, and primary hospitals) are varied and can be challenging due to limited staff and resources.14,15 The World Health Organization defines a primary care facility as having few specialties, mainly internal medicine and general surgery with limited laboratory services for general (but not specialized) pathologic analysis, and bed size ranging from 30 to 200 beds.16 Although guidance is available for effective intervention strategies in smaller hospitals, there are limited data in the literature regarding successful outcomes.17-22

The purpose of this study was to establish the need and evaluate the impact of a pharmacy-initiated 3-part intervention targeting treatment duration in patients hospitalized with uncomplicated pneumonia in a primary hospital setting. The Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VHSO) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has 50 acute care beds, including 7 intensive care unit beds and excluding 15 mental health beds. The pharmacy is staffed 24 hours a day. Acute-care providers consist of 7 full-time hospitalists, not including nocturnists and contract physicians. The VHSO does not have an infectious disease physician on staff.

The antimicrobial stewardship committee consists of 3 clinical pharmacists, a pulmonologist, a pathologist, and 2 infection-control nurses. There is 1 full-time equivalent allotted for inpatient clinical pharmacy activities in the acute care areas, including enforcement of all antimicrobial stewardship policies, which are conducted by a single pharmacist.


This was a retrospective chart review of two 12-month periods using a before and after study design. Medical records were reviewed during October 2012 through September 2013 (before the stewardship implementation) and December 2014 through November 2015 (after implementation). Inclusion criteria consisted of a primary discharge diagnosis of pneumonia as documented by the provider (or secondary diagnosis if sepsis was primary), hospitalization for at least 48 hours, administration of antibiotics for a minimum of 24 hours, and survival to discharge.

Exclusion criteria consisted of direct transfer from another facility, inappropriate empiric therapy as evidenced by culture data (isolated pathogens not covered by prescribed antibiotics), pneumonia that developed 48 hours after admission, extrapulmonary sources of infection, hospitalization > 14 days, discharge without a known duration of outpatient antibiotics, discharge for pneumonia within 28 days prior to admission, documented infection caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa or other nonlactose fermenting Gram-negative rod, and complicated pneumonias defined as lung abscess, empyema, or severe immunosuppression (eg, cancer with chemotherapy within the previous 30 days, transplant recipients, HIV infection, acquired or congenital immunodeficiency, or absolute neutrophil count 1,500 cell/mm3 within past 28 days).

Patients were designated with health care-associated pneumonia (HCAP) if they were hospitalized ≥ 2 days or resided in a skilled nursing or extended-care facility within the previous 90 days; on chronic dialysis; or had wound care, tracheostomy care, or ventilator care from a health care professional within the previous 28 days. Criteria for clinical stability were defined as ≤ 100.4º F temperature, ≤ 100 beats/min heart rate, ≤ 24 breaths/min respiratory rate, ≥ 90 mm Hg systolic blood pressure, ≥ 90% or PaO2 ≥ 60 mm Hg oxygen saturation on room air (or baseline oxygen requirements), and return to baseline mental status. To compare groups, researchers tabulated the pneumonia severity index on hospital day 1.

The intervention consisted of a 3-part process. First, hospitalists were educated on VHSO’s baseline treatment duration data, and these were compared with current IDSA recommendations. The education was followed by an open-discussion component to solicit feedback from providers on perceived barriers to following guidelines. Provider feedback was used to tailor an antimicrobial stewardship intervention to address perceived barriers to optimal antibiotic treatment duration.

After the education component, prospective intervention and feedback were provided for hospitalized patients by a single clinical pharmacist. This pharmacist interacted verbally and in writing with the patients’ providers, discussing antimicrobial appropriateness, de-escalation, duration of therapy, and intravenous to oral switching. Finally, a stewardship note for the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) was generated and included a template with reminders of clinical stability, duration of current therapy, and a request to discontinue therapy if the patient met criteria. For patients who remained hospitalized, this note was entered into CPRS on or about day 7 of antibiotic therapy; this required an electronic signature from the provider.

The VHSO Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee approved both the provider education and the stewardship note in November 2014, and implementation of the stewardship intervention occurred immediately afterward. The pharmacy staff also was educated on the VHSO baseline data and stewardship efforts.

The primary outcome of the study was the change in days of total antibiotic treatment. Secondary outcomes included days of intravenous antibiotic therapy, days of inpatient oral therapy, mean length of stay (LOS), and number of outpatient antibiotic days once discharged. Incidence of CDI and 28-day readmissions were also evaluated. The VHSO Institutional Review Board approved these methods and the procedures that followed were in accord with the ethical standards of the VHSO Committee on Human Experimentation.

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February 2017 Digital Edition

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