Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Improper antibiotic use is far too prevalent

Maryland patients should be aware of a 2015 study's findings that misdiagnosis commonly leads to improper antibiotic treatment. Incorrect antibiotic use can cause harm to patients by reducing the effectiveness of the drugs in future treatment and raising health care costs. Approximately 56 percent of inpatient hospital treatment involves the use of antibiotic therapies, but such treatment is found to be unnecessary in nearly half of those cases, according to the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America.

An internist for the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System was part of a research group that examined 500 patients. They found that 95 percent of patients who received an incorrect or indeterminate diagnosis received inappropriate antibiotic treatment. Even 38 percent of patients who received a correct diagnosis received incorrect antibiotic treatment. The findings of the study suggest that antibiotic oversight programs would benefit from a redesign to help prioritize correct initial diagnoses.

The researchers reported that the incorrect diagnoses were made when physicians relied on intuition rather than proper assessment of the cases. Fatigue, sleep deprivation, mental overload and previous diagnoses were also cited as contributing factors. A lack of clinical experience and lack of experience with side effects were also noted. Because diagnostic accuracy is crucial to the safe usage of antibiotics, researchers emphasized the need to improve strategies and tools to help clinicians decrease unnecessary antibiotic use.

Patients who were inappropriately prescribed antibiotic therapies due to a failure to diagnose the correct condition can in some cases see their conditions worsened. Negligent physician behavior, such as failing to make the correct diagnosis or prescribing an unnecessary antibiotic that may decrease the drug's effectiveness in the future, may leave the physician responsible for ensuing damages. Those who have been in this type of situation may wish to speak with a medical malpractice attorney to determine if any recourse is available.

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