Background: Given the risks associated with antibiotics, efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in the NICU have become increasingly urgent. In 2016, a comprehensive 3-year quality improvement (QI) initiative was conducted in a level 4 NICU that sought to decrease the antibiotic use rate (AUR) by 20%.
Methods: This local QI initiative was conducted in the context of a multicenter learning collaborative focused on decreasing unnecessary antibiotic use. Improvement strategies focused on addressing gaps in the core elements of antibiotic stewardship programs. Outcome measures included the AUR and the percent of infants discharged without antibiotic exposure. Process measures included the percent of infants evaluated for early-onset sepsis (EOS) and duration of antibiotics used for various infections. Statistical process control charts were used to display and analyze data over time.
Results: The AUR decreased from 27.6% at baseline to 15.5%, a 43% reduction, and has been sustained for >18 months. Changes most attributable to this decrease include implementation of the sepsis risk calculator, adopting a 36-hour rule-out period for sepsis evaluations, a 36-hour antibiotic hard stop, and novel guideline for EOS evaluation among infants <35 weeks. The percent of infants discharged without antibiotic exposure increased from 15.8% to 35.1%. The percent of infants ≥36 weeks undergoing evaluation for EOS decreased by 42.3% and for those <35 weeks by 26%.
Conclusions: Our efforts significantly reduced antibiotic use and exposure in our NICU. Our comprehensive, rigorous approach to QI is applicable to teams focused on improvement.