THURSDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics could save hospitals millions of dollars a year, a new study suggests.
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Researchers evaluated a seven-year antibiotic stewardship program at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and found that it led to a $3 million reduction in the hospital's annual budget for antibiotics by its third year.
After seven years, the program had slashed antibiotic spending per patient day by nearly half. The savings occurred in departments including the cancer center, trauma center, surgical and medical care intensive care units and transplant service.
After the program was canceled in 2008 in favor of providing more infectious disease consultations, antibiotic costs increased 32 percent (almost $2 million) within two years, according to the study in the April issue of the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
Reducing unnecessary use of antibiotics is encouraged as a way to protect against the spread of drug-resistant infections. This study shows that it also offers financial benefits.
"Our results clearly show that an antimicrobial stewardship program like the one at UMMC is safe, effective, and makes good financial sense," lead author Dr. Harold Standiford, medical director for antimicrobial effectiveness at UMMC, said in a journal news release.
The study found no increase in death rates, hospital readmissions or length of stays.
"Our research shows that investing in stewardship not only helps preserve our dwindling antibiotic tools, it can also help to eliminate wasteful health care spending," Standiford said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, news release, March 14, 2012