The Joint Commission’s new antibiotic stewardship requirements for 2023 aim to improve antibiotic prescribing in hospitals and decrease antibiotic resistance.
Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Ph.D., MSHA, MACP, FACMI
President and Chief Executive Officer, The Joint Commission
Antibiotics save lives when used properly; however, overuse can lead to the development of antimicrobial-resistant infections. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) associated with overuse is so serious that experts fear it could essentially return us to the pre-antibiotic era, with nothing in our arsenal to fight bacterial infections. In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) referred to increasing AMR as “an existential threat to mankind.” Also according to the CDC, at least 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections are reported each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
These alarming revelations emphasize the importance of healthcare organizations establishing antibiotic stewardship programs, which are structures and processes designed to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics. Antibiotic stewardship plays a critical role in patient safety because preventing overuse of antibiotics reduces antimicrobial resistance.
Commitment to safety
The Joint Commission, which sets quality and safety standards for healthcare organizations across the country, introduced its first antibiotic stewardship standards in 2017 to emphasize the importance of developing an antibiotic stewardship program. It recently updated those requirements, effective January 2023, and raised the bar for hospitals seeking to improve their antibiotic prescribing practices.
The new hospital standards align with federal regulations and recommendations from scientific and professional organizations and address key components for a successful antibiotic stewardship program. The 2023 hospital standards require hospitals to:
- Allocate financial resources for staffing and information technology to support the program
- Appoint a qualified physician and/or pharmacist to lead the antibiotic stewardship program and defining their responsibilities
- Establish a multidisciplinary committee to provide guidance and oversight for the program
- Implement an antibiotic stewardship program throughout the hospital to address inappropriate antibiotic use
- Evaluate adherence to evidence-based guidelines for the most common indications for antibiotic use
- Collect, analyze, and report antibiotic stewardship program data to hospital leadership and prescribers
- Identify opportunities to improve the hospital’s antibiotic stewardship program
Commitment to investment
The Joint Commission requires hospitals to implement these antibiotic stewardship activities as part of their accreditation programs. Achieving accreditation demonstrates a healthcare facility’s commitment to continuous improvement in patient care and may fulfill federal and state regulatory requirements for some. The Joint Commission, which accredits approximately 80% of America’s hospitals, is committed to combating antibiotic resistance by promoting antibiotic stewardship through its accreditation activities and providing tools to help healthcare organizations implement antibiotic stewardship programs in multiple healthcare settings.
In addition to publishing peer-reviewed articles and highlighting leading practices hospitals use to improve antibiotic prescribing practices, it also launched SpeakUp™ on Antibiotics, an educational campaign accessible to the public about the safe use of antibiotics and risks associated with antibiotic overuse. The SpeakUp™ campaign includes an infographic, podcast, and video, with components available in both English and Spanish.
Visit The Joint Commission’s antibiotic stewardship website for additional information about its activities and resources to improve antibiotic stewardship practices within the nation’s healthcare organizations.