OAKLAND, MD – Garrett Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department (ED) wants potential patients to know that the hospital uses evidenced based practices in its approach to prescribing antibiotics to people coming to the Emergency Room for sore throats, fevers, and other ailments.
Physicians and other health professionals in the ED and throughout the 55-bed hospital take a prudent approach to antibiotic use. The overuse of these prescriptions can lead to resistant strains of bacteria, leaving patients more vulnerable to the bacteria’s impact. This can be especially problematic for patients with weakened immune systems as well as those who are elderly or very young.
“People who have viruses can think an antibiotic will help them heal more quickly; however, that’s simply not the case,” says Dr. Bob Corder, the head of GRMC’s Emergency Department. “Antibiotics are to be used with bacterial infections, not viral infections. We have Point of Care testing here in the ED that we use in determining a limited number of diagnoses, such as influenza, Strep, or urinary tract infections. This allows us to very quickly determine if the problem with a particular patient is viral or bacterial. Once that’s determined, we look at various treatment options.”
Dr. Corder notes that those ED patients who have a primary care provider tend to be well aware of what antibiotics can alleviate and what they cannot. Local physicians have done a good job of educating their patients, thus making it easier for hospital personnel to explain why an antibiotic won’t work for a certain condition.
Patients, however, sometimes request an antibiotic when presenting with a condition that could be caused by a virus or bacteria, such as a sore throat.
“We do see patients who think their sore throat is Step throat, and so an antibiotic is necessary,” says Lance Rhodes, GRMC’s Director of Pharmacy Services. “But it’s important to test for Strep before prescribing anything; it can very difficult for the patient to tell the difference between a sore throat resulting from a virus, versus a sore throat resulting from Strep. Strep warrants a prescription for an antibiotic, while a sore throat stemming from a virus does not.”
Testing to determine the root cause of a patient’s symptoms can be important, according to Dr. Corder.
“The Point of Care testing is a very useful tool in determining the course of treatment,” he says. “If more testing is needed, we may do a culture, which can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to get the results. In those cases we will defer treatment until the results are in-hand, and then we’ll contact the patient with the preferred course of treatment. We want our patients to receive the best care possible; using antibiotics conservatively is part of that.”