Antibiotic Use in Rural Hospitals as a Public Health Issue

Key points

  • Antibiotic stewardship programs improve how hospitals use antibiotics and result in improved patient outcomes.
  • About 1 in 3 antibiotics prescribed in hospitals is not needed or are prescribed incorrectly.
Doctor and nurse talking in presence of a patient lying in bed.


Improving antibiotic use in hospitals is an important part of improving patient outcomes. Antibiotic use can cause serious side effects, such as Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection and other undesirable effects.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing crisis in the United States, and antibiotic use is an important driving factor.

Mother and child consulting with a healthcare provider. One in three antibiotics prescribed in hospitals is unnecessary. Hospitals in rural areas use antibiotics just as often as larger hospitals. Learn more about antibiotic use in rural communities at
Antibiotics are frequently overused in hospitals.

Benefits of antibiotic stewardship

Antibiotic stewardship programs focus on improving how healthcare facilities prescribe and use antibiotics. The benefits of implementing a program can include the following:

  • Reduced C. difficile infections and other complications from antibiotics
  • Decreased antibiotic resistance
  • Improved infection cure rates

In addition, antibiotic stewardship programs can improve patient outcomes while saving hospitals and patients money.

Hospitals in rural areas

Smaller rural hospitals use antibiotics just as much as larger hospitals. They also face just as many challenges with antibiotic resistance. Small hospitals may face unique challenges with stewardship programs due to limited resources. See the resources below for new guidance on prescribing and using antibiotics in small and critical access hospitals.


What the Science Says - Evidence to support antibiotic stewardship

Antibiotic Stewardship Strategies - Implementation of Core Elements for Small and Critical Access Hospitals

Antibiotic Use in Hospitals and Long-Term Care - New and revised requirements for antibiotic stewardship