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Hospitals fear rise of superbugs, and worry they aren’t doing enough

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Many health system executives are increasingly concerned about the rise of antimicrobial resistance, and fear it could raise the risk of another pandemic.

Most hospital executives say they are increasingly worried about antimicrobial resistance, and worry it could raise the risk of a future pandemic. (Image credit: ©Artinun - stock.adobe.com)

Most hospital executives say they are increasingly worried about antimicrobial resistance, and worry it could raise the risk of a future pandemic. (Image credit: ©Artinun - stock.adobe.com)

Hospitals are dreading the rise of superbugs, and the potential of future pandemics.

More health system executives say they are increasingly concerned about the rise of antimicrobial resistance, according to a report released by the Sepsis Alliance, a charitable organization aiming to reduce the risks of sepsis.

In addition, many executives aren’t giving their own systems high marks in their efforts to curb antimicrobial resistance, the report found. The Alliance released the report in recognition of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which began Nov. 18 and concludes today.

The vast majority of executives (88%) said they think the problem of antimicrobial resistance is getting worse. Most executives (85%) said they are concerned that the problem could be raising the potential of another global pandemic. Nine in 10 (90%) healthcare leaders said antimicrobial resistance poses a threat to society.

At the same time, hospital executives are being candid in their response efforts. Roughly one in four executives (26%) responding to the survey said their organizations merit an “A” grade for their efforts to reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Doctors say curbing the use of antibiotics when they aren’t necessary would go a long way to alleviating the problem. Nearly nine out of 10 (88%) infectious disease physicians and pharmacists say the improper use of antibiotics is the leading cause of antimicrobial resistance, the survey found.

More than two-thirds (68%) of hospital executives said the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the problem. Supply chain headaches and the need to focus resources on other areas are factors contributing to the issue, executives said.

Roughly four in 10 (38%) of organizations said they saw an uptick in infections tied to antimicrobial resistance as a result of the pandemic.

Many healthcare leaders called for greater outreach to highlight the gravity of the problem, and they said education efforts are needed for the general public and healthcare professionals.

The survey found 92% of healthcare executives are concerned about the general public’s lack of awareness about the issue of antimicrobial resistance. More than three-quarters (77%) said they see opportunities to educate clinicians, caregivers and the public. A majority (59%) of respondents said public education is a serious barrier.

The healthcare industry needs to do a better job of explaining to patients that antibiotics aren’t needed in some cases, and when people take them unnecessarily, it leads to greater resistance, the report stated. Executives also said public awareness efforts should be amplified as more patients go to non-traditional sources for their healthcare needs.

Nationwide, more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections take place each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 35,000 deaths annually are attributed to such infections, the CDC says.

The CDC describes antimicrobial infections as “an urgent global public health threat.”

The World Health Organization describes antimicrobial infections as “one of the top global public health and development threats.” Globally, antimicrobial infections directly led to 1.27 million deaths and contributed to nearly 5 million deaths in 2019, the WHO says.

The Sepsis Alliance report calls for the development of a national action plan to guide government agencies in dealing with sepsis.

The report reflects findings from a survey of 158 hospital and healthcare executives. Sage Growth Partners conducted the survey.


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