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Public reporting of hospital antibiotic timing for patients with pneumonia is not linked to antibiotic overuse or overdiagnosis

Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352

Releasing information to the public about how hospitals treat patients with pneumonia does not produce any negative consequences for patients. Specifically, reporting how quickly patients receive antibiotics does not lead to overdiagnosis or inappropriate treatment of pneumonia, concludes a new study.

Researchers looked at information from 13,042 visits to hospital emergency departments by adults complaining of respiratory symptoms from 2001 to 2005. In 2004, the majority of hospitals began publicly reporting information on 10 quality measures. This included the percentage of patients with pneumonia receiving antibiotics within 4 hours. Rates of pneumonia diagnosis, antibiotic use, and physician wait times were compared before and after public reporting. No major difference was found in the rate of pneumonia diagnosis before public reporting (10 percent) and after public reporting (11 percent). The same was true for antibiotic timing scores (34 percent vs. 35 percent). Any variation in hospital antibiotic timing was due to differences in wait times to see a doctor rather than differences in the rates of pneumonia diagnosis or prescribing antibiotics.

The study's results suggest that fears over indiscriminate antibiotic use and an overdiagnosis of pneumonia as a result of public reporting are unfounded. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS14563).

See "Reporting hospitals' antibiotic timing in pneumonia: Adverse consequences for patients?" by Mark W. Friedberg, M.D., M.P.P., Ateev Mehrotra, M.D., M.P.H., and Jeffrey A. Linder, M.D., M.P.H., in the February 2009 American Journal of Managed Care 15(2), pp. 137-144.

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Current as of December 2009
Internet Citation: Public reporting of hospital antibiotic timing for patients with pneumonia is not linked to antibiotic overuse or overdiagnosis: Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352. December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec09/1209RA13.html