Doctors Warning: Urgent Care Centers May Be Inappropriately And Overly Prescribing Antibiotics


  • JAMA Internal Medicine features an analysis saying that urgent care centers may be one of the most unnoticed facilities that expose patients to the danger of antibiotic overuse.
  • Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of Utah authored the analysis.
  • Inappropriate use of antibiotics may lead to the development of bacteria that are drug-resistant, which can later result in fatal infections.

A team of researchers from the CDC, the University of Utah, and the Pew Charitable Trusts found out that urgent care centers are the most overlooked culprits in enforcing inappropriate antibiotic use. They gathered data from patients’ insurance claims (those with employer-sponsored coverage) and found out that in 2014, an estimated of 46% of patients who went to urgent care centers have been prescribed with antibiotics for conditions that should not be treated by antibiotics, i.e. a cold that’s caused by a virus.

It’s almost twice the rate of improper antibiotic use in emergency departments which is 25%, and three times the rate seen in traditional medical clinics, which is 17%. These findings are alarming because the inappropriate use of antibiotics can cause the development of bacteria that are drug-resistant, which can later result in fatal infections.

Antibiotic overuse may be even worse than what health experts thought. Data from 2010-2011 show that an estimated 30% of prescribed antibiotics in emergency rooms and medical offices were inappropriate. This doesn’t include the prescriptions given in urgent care facilities which have grown increasingly popular and are now prescribing an estimated 40% of antibiotics outside hospitals.

JAMA Internal Medicine’s editorial staff and physicians say that the proper use of antibiotics doesn’t seem to be applicable in urgent care centers’ business structures. These facilities offer quicker, low-cost medical interventions for conditions that might not need to be treated in an ER or standard medical clinic. These facilities prescribed antibiotics to patients who are looking for an “easy answer” for a considerably mild illness.

Furthermore, doctors in urgent care facilities might not have the chance to build enough rapport with patients to discourage them from wanting an antibiotic – but patients keep coming back because of the low out-of-pocket expense. This situation raises valid concerns due to the increasing popularity of urgent care facilities in recent years.

Source: ARS Technica

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One Response

  1. Joanne Ferdinando July 21, 2018

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