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Antibiotic Use in Rural Hospitals

Updated April 21, 2023

1 in 3 Antibiotics precribed in hospitals is unnecessary. Hospitals in rural areas use antibiotics just as often as larger hospitals.

Improving antibiotic use in hospitals is important to improving patient outcomes. Studies show that about one in three antibiotics prescribed in hospitals is not needed or are prescribed incorrectly. Antibiotic use can cause serious side effects such as Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection and other adverse events. Antibiotic use is an important driving factor in the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in the United States. Fortunately, programs focused on improving antibiotic prescribing and use—or antibiotic stewardship programs—can reduce C. difficile infections and other adverse events from antibiotics, decrease antibiotic resistance and improve infection cure rates. Furthermore, they achieve all of these gains while saving money.

Hospitals in rural areas, which might either be small or “critical access” hospitals (less than 25 beds) use antibiotics just as often as larger hospitals. Similar to larger hospitals, these hospitals face challenges posed by C. difficile and antibiotic resistance. However, smaller hospitals often face unique challenges implementing stewardship programs because of limited resources. A new guide for antibiotic prescribing and use in small and critical access hospitals provides strategies to hospitals in rural areas.