Antibiotic Use and Misuse in Hospitals (Part 2: Protecting Yourself)

Despite repeated warnings issued by researchers, the CDC and the WHO about the overuse of antibiotics in the healthcare sector, recent numbers have shown that doctors continue to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics at alarming rates. However, there are signs of hope. Let’s continue to explore this problem and discuss what you can do to protect yourself.

Why Are Antibiotics Still Overprescribed?

According to Pew Research, many doctors continue to ignore or gloss over CDC warnings in their immediate interactions with patients. The reasons vary, but they can usually be tied to other inherent flaws in our healthcare system. For example, doctors may prescribe unnecessary antibiotics because:

  • They are concerned about patient satisfaction (sometimes even fearing malpractice claims if they fail to address an infection properly).
  • They don’t have adequate time to pinpoint the cause of the symptoms, so they prescribe antibiotics as a “blanket” drug.
  • They suffer from “decision fatigue” from seeing too many patients, which can affect their judgment.

Is There Any Good News?

Yes, there is. In early 2017, the Joint Commission released a new set of guidelines regarding the proper stewardship of antibiotics in the healthcare sector, and the CDC released a report early this year indicating that more states and hospitals nationwide are taking steps toward antibiotic awareness and proper stewardship of these drugs. While individual doctors may still ignore these guidelines, at least the facilities themselves are taking steps to reduce the misuse of antibiotics.

How to Protect Yourself

At the current time, you can be your own best guardian against the improper use of antibiotics and the spread of superbugs—and if everyone takes personal responsibility for their own care, we can see more progress on this front. Some common-sense steps to take:

  • Ask your doctor the specific reason for an antibiotic prescription. If he indicates it’s a “precaution,” ask for more test to determine the type of bacteria causing the infection.
  • Don’t take antibiotics for viral infections. Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, only bacteria; you’ll only be adding to the problem if you take it for bacteria you don’t have.
  • If you legitimately need an antibiotic, take the full cycle, even when you feel better. Antibiotic resistance often develops when patients don’t take enough of the drug to kill the bacteria completely.
  • Protect against the spread of bacteria. Wash your hands frequently. Stay home if you’re sick. If you’re in a hospital room that looks dirty, ask personnel to clean it with antimicrobials. When we control the spread of infection in these ways, we reduce the overall need for antibiotics.

If you believe you’ve been prescribed unnecessary medicines that have made you worse, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys may be able help. Call our offices to learn more.