When Are Antibiotics Appropriate?

You have all the symptoms: fever, cough, headache, and fatigue and body pain. You’re sick!! You visit your doctor looking for antibiotics to get you better quick, but is this always the best course of treatment?

Young business woman trying to eat blister of pills

Doctors at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center are taking a long, hard look at how patients are being treated and what they are finding is that prescribing antibiotics is sometimes not the best course of action. “For a number of reasons, physicians throughout the healthcare industry prescribe antibiotics when they are not necessary” states Dr. Luigi Tullo, Family Medicine Physician at Jamaica Hospital. Dr. Tullo added “Some of the factors are physician driven and some are patient driven, but regardless of the reason, inappropriately prescribing antibiotics can have long-term health effects on our community”.

Over-prescribing antibiotics can eventually lead to the drugs becoming less effective when they are really needed. Another cause for concern is the evolution of bacteria. When exposed to the same antibiotic repeatedly, the bacteria will change its composition and become resistant to the very medications that are intended to kill. MRSA and C. difficle are two examples of drug-resistant bugs, but they are not the only ones. This growing problem in the medical community has prompted Dr. Tullo and his colleagues to develop an Antibiotic Stewardship Program to educate both the practitioner and the patient about when antibiotics are necessary and when they are not.

To help the doctor, Jamaica Hospital has implemented multiple tools into its electronic medical records system. These tools require the doctor to provide further documentation before prescribing antibiotics to their patients. Sometimes however, even against the doctor’s best judgment, a patient may insist on receiving a prescription of antibiotics. Dr. Tullo explains, “A culture has been created that implies if a doctor doesn’t provide a prescription after examining you, then he or she isn’t taking care of you. Patients think that antibiotics are some sort of magic wand, when in fact they are not.”

To better change this perception, Jamaica Hospital, working together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is embarking on an educational campaign to help explain that antibiotics are appropriate for bacterial infections, but not for a virus. These colorful, multi-lingual posters created by the CDC will hang in all Jamaica Hospital out-patient clinics and offer guidance and education to patients.

In addition to the posters and other educational handouts, Dr. Tullo believes an emphasis must be placed on how doctors explain the patient’s condition to them. According to Dr. Tullo, “if it is explained that not needing antibiotics is a good thing, since they have a virus, the message will be better received.”

Jamaica Hospital continues to strive to do the best for their patients and hopes that through this effort, they can improve the long-term health of the community.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.