Antibiotic stewardship targets in the outpatient setting

Published:March 09, 2019DOI:


      • Forty percent of antibiotic prescriptions were not indicated for use.
      • Azithromycin was prescribed unnecessarily most often.
      • The correct antibiotic was prescribed when the syndrome met clinical guidance.
      • ICD-10-CM codes were unreliable in identifying outpatient infections.


      Outpatient prescriptions comprise 60% of antibiotic use. This study prospectively identified inappropriate antibiotic use enabling a focused approach to outpatient antimicrobial stewardship.


      Outpatients at the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System were identified via an electronic antibiotic alert from June 2017 to September 2017. Descriptive statistics and multivariable logistic regression identified stewardship targets.


      Of the 1,063 patients, 40% of antibiotic prescriptions were not indicated. Urinary tract infections (21%), bronchitis (20%), skin structure infections (17%), and sinusitis (10%) were common causes of inappropriate antibiotic use. Azithromycin (37%) was prescribed unnecessarily most often, followed by ciprofloxacin (16%), amoxicillin/clavulanate (13%), and cephalexin (12%). The correct drug was chosen in 52%, dose in 81%, and duration in 75% of patients. When the antibiotic was indicated, the correct drug was 2.9 times more likely to be prescribed and 2 times more likely to have the correct duration and receive care in the emergency room.


      Focusing on 4 drugs; amoxicillin/clavulanate, azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, and cephalexin accounted for 80% of unnecessary drug use. This study provides a guide to concentrate efforts during implementation of an outpatient stewardship program.


      Poor antibiotic prescribing was found in the outpatient setting. This study identifies areas for improvement via stewardship.

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