This week in the U.S. we observe Antibiotic Awareness, to help raise awareness of the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and the threat of antimicrobial resistance. Why is this important? The stats are significant: More than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur in the United States each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. Resistant infections cost the U.S. up to $33 billion annually, and that is expected to “grow considerably if antibiotic resistance rates continue.”1
It happens very simply: as patients, when we’re sick, we want to feel better right away and often believe an antibiotic is the magic path to the immediate restoration of health.
But as a doctor I see it differently: When antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, one of the most urgent threats to our overall health. Antimicrobial resistance happens when germs, like bacteria, develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Even the short term side effects of antibiotics, ranging from prolonged diarrhea to rashes to yeast infections, can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. It’s important to remember that while antibiotics kill bacteria, they won’t necessarily help a patient with their symptoms, especially when symptoms are caused by a virus.
Antibiotics Unnecessarily Prescribed in 30-40% of Cases
Stats from the National Library for Medicine tell us that “More than 266 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed annually in outpatient locations around the US. The majority of antibiotic expenditures (>60%) and consumption (80%–90%) occur among outpatients, and at least 30%–40% of outpatient antibiotics are deemed unnecessary, often prescribed for viral respiratory infections.”
As the Chief Quality Officer and Head of Clinical Strategy for CirrusMD, I help our clinical team follow evidence-based best practices regarding the appropriate use of antibiotics. Our care delivery model lets us partner with our patients to understand their symptoms in a continuum of care. Instead of a patient spending 15 minutes in a brick & mortar office, as virtual physicians we can connect with a patient, get a detailed view of their symptoms, and offer a number of treatment suggestions without prescribing an inappropriate antibiotic.
In medicine we know it’s often better to let the body treat things naturally. Because we offer a 7 day experience, patients can come back onto the care platform within a single encounter. Patients directly benefit from evidence-based best practices, and our doctors can see how things progress over the course of days. So a person with upper respiratory symptoms may get instructions for nasal rinses, and then come back in a few days to chat with a doctor about how they’re doing.
CirrusMD Physicians Prescribe Fewer Antibiotics
Only about 1/3 of all CirrusMD encounters result in a prescription of any kind, with approximately 15% of encounters resulting in an antibiotic. At the same time, our patient satisfaction scores stay around 96%. It’s a testament to our doctors’ ability to create a trusting patient-physician relationship, helping patients recognize they’re getting the best care possible.
Virtual physicians are playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of healthcare delivery, and with responsible antibiotic prescribing practices, we contribute not only to the well-being of individual patients but also to the long-term effectiveness of these essential medications.
Learn more about Physician-first Care & Guidance from CirrusMD.