THURSDAY, Oct. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that children who are hospitalized get discharged sooner and come back less often when hospitals take extra efforts to control treatment that uses antibiotics.
Some hospitals and other medical facilities have embraced "stewardship programs" designed to make it harder for physicians to prescribe antibiotic medications without a good reason. While antibiotics can often effectively treat and cure infections, their overuse has allowed certain germs to develop resistance and keep people sick despite the use of powerful drugs.
"Studies have shown stewardship programs reduce antibiotic use and decrease the risk of antibiotic resistance, but this is the first to demonstrate that these programs actually reduce length of [hospital] stay and readmission in children," said Dr. Jason Newland, study lead author and medical director of patient safety and systems reliability at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
The findings are scheduled for presentation Thursday in Philadelphia at a joint meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, HIV Medicine Association and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.
"These findings reinforce the health benefits of antibiotic stewardship programs for some of our most vulnerable patients. It's clear that more hospitals should invest their resources in implementing such programs," Newland said.
The study findings are based on statistics over five years at Children's Mercy Hospital. For 17 percent of 7,000 children, the hospital recommended changes to the use of prescription antibiotics. They could be discontinued, have the dose changed or be switched to another medication; it was up to the physician to figure out whether to make any adjustment.
When doctors followed the recommendations, kids without complex chronic health issues stayed in the hospital for shorter periods (an average of 68 hours versus 82 hours), and the children were less likely to be readmitted.
"Skeptics say stopping the antibiotics and sending the kids home sooner will lead to more children being readmitted, but we didn't find that," Newland said in a meeting news release. "What we found was that kids were being taken off unnecessary antibiotics sooner and in a safe manner."
The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about antibiotic resistance, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.