– It took less than a year to curb overuse of intravenous antibiotics at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, according to a report given at the Pediatric Hospital Medicine meeting.

Dr. Sonya Girdwood, Cincinnati Children's Hospital M. Alexander Otto/MDedge News

Dr. Sonya Girdwood

Overuse of IV antibiotics – continuing IV formulations when oral formulations would work just as well – is a widespread concern in hospital medicine. Patients can often be switched to an oral antibiotic after an initial IV course. It lowers costs, lessens the risk of antimicrobial resistance, and reduces IV complications, but timely transitions don’t always happen.

They certainly weren’t happening at Cincinnati Children’s. “Despite a strong antimicrobial stewardship program, we identified a problem with overuse of IV antibiotics. The majority of pediatric patients admitted to an in-hospital service were started on IV antibiotics regardless of diagnosis or condition. Conversion to enteral antibiotics was often not considered until the day of discharge, even if patients were taking other enteral medications earlier in the admission,” said project leader Sonya Girdwood, MD, a research fellow at the hospital.

To get a handle on the problem, her team focused on two common IV antibiotics, ampicillin and clindamycin, that have oral equivalents with equal bioavailability: amoxicillin in the case of ampicillin, and oral clindamycin. To further define the project, they zeroed in on two common indications: clindamycin for uncomplicated skin and soft-tissue infections, and ampicillin for community-acquired pneumonia, in children over 2 months old.

The team figured that, if patients were able to take other oral medications, they should also be able to take oral antibiotics, so the goal of the project was to increase the rate of antibiotics given orally in children who were taking other enteral medications.

That percentage was 44% at baseline, and increased to 80% by month 8, saving an estimated $30,000 annually. There was no increase in 30-day readmissions. Length of stay held steady overall at about a day and half, but Dr. Girdwood suspected it might have been reduced for cellulitis.

Improvement efforts focused on residents and started in January 2017. Among the first lessons was that IV ampicillin is about 21 times more expensive than amoxicillin and that IV clindamycin is about twice as expensive as its oral formulation.

Residents were tasked with forming a plan at admission to transition children to oral antibiotics as soon as possible and to discuss those plans with attending physicians in preround huddles. Often, “this led to [transition] orders being placed even before rounds started,” Dr. Girdwood said.

A time was set up during evening huddles – 10 p.m. – for residents working overnight to discuss transition timing with attending. Failures – patients still on IV clindamycin or ampicillin when they were taking oral meds – were identified and shared with resident teams.

The gains have been maintained for almost a year with little backsliding; residents are reminded weekly of transition goals.

Children with skin and soft-tissue infections with bone or eye involvement were excluded from the project, along with pneumonia patients with chest tubes or complex or loculated effusions requiring a surgery consult.

There was no external funding, and the investigators had no disclosures.