Prolonged antibiotic therapy may be associated with increased adverse events and antibiotic resistance. We deployed an intervention in the electronic health record (EHR) to reduce antibiotic duration for pediatric outpatients.
A preintervention and postintervention interrupted time series analysis of antibiotic duration for 7 antibiotics was performed for patients discharged from the ED and clinics of a children’s hospital network from 2012 to 2018. In February 2015, clickable 5- and 7-day duration option buttons were deployed in the EHR for clindamycin, cephalexin, ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, and cefdinir, with an additional 10-day option for the latter 2. Prescribers were able to enter a free-text duration. The option buttons were not announced, and were not linked to a specific diagnosis or quality improvement initiative. The primary outcome was proportion of prescriptions per month with duration of 10 days. Balancing secondary outcomes were reorders of the same agent, return to clinic, and inpatient admissions within 30 days.
There were 54 315 prescriptions for the 7 antibiotics associated with 39 894 patients, 18 683 clinic visits, and 35 632 ED visits. Overall, a −5.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], −8.3% to −2.0%) change in the proportion of prescriptions with a 10-day duration was attributable to the intervention, with larger effects noted for clindamycin (−20.8% [95% CI, −26.9% to −14.7%]) and cephalexin (−9.9% [95% CI, −14.3% to −5.4%]). There was no increase in the reorders of the same agent, return clinical encounters, or inpatient admissions within 30 days.
A simple intervention in the EHR can safely reduce duration of antibiotic therapy.