Backgrounds: Over 50% of antibiotics prescriptions are for outpatients with acute respiratory infections (ARI). Many of them are not needed and thus contribute both avoidable adverse events and pressures toward the development of bacterial resistance. Could a clinical decision support system (CDSS), interposed at the time of electronic prescription, adjust antibiotics utilization toward consensus treatment guidelines for ARI? Methods: This is a retrospective comparison of pre- (2002) and post-intervention (2003-2006) periods at two comprehensive health care systems (intervention and control). The intervention was a CDSS that targeted fluoroquinolone and azithromycin; other antibiotics remained unrestricted. 7000 outpatients visits flagged by an ARI case-finding algorithm were reviewed for congruence with the guidelines (antibiotic prescribed-when-warranted or not-prescribed-when-unwarranted). Results: 3831 patients satisfied the case definitions for one or more ARI: pneumonia (537), bronchitis (2931), sinusitis (717) and non-specific ARI (145). All patients with pneumonia received antibiotics. The relative risk (RR) of congruent prescribing was 2.57 (95% CI = (1.865 to 3.540) in favor of the intervention site for the antibiotics targeted by the CDSS; congruence did not change for other antibiotics (adjusted RR = 1.18 (95% CI = (0.691 to 2.011)). The proportion of unwarranted prescriptions of the targeted antibiotics decreased from 22% to 3%, pre vs. post-intervention (p<0.0001). Conclusions: A CDSS interposed at the time of e-prescription nearly extinguished unwarranted use targeted antibiotics for ARI for four years. This intervention highlights a path toward sustainable antibiotics stewardship for outpatients with ARI.
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