Cutting-Edge Technology in Metro Helps Limit Antibiotics Doctors Prescribe

Updated: 01/14/2014 11:00 PM By: Kate Renner

As we head into the thick of cold and flu season, you might notice your doctor is holding off on prescribing antibiotics.

A new program at Hennepin County Medical Center encourages doctors to limit the amount of antibiotics they prescribe with the help of cutting edge technology.

KSTP caught up with Bernie Lischynski who was refilling a prescription for a sinus infection.

"I was going to try and get through the holidays without getting any medication and before you know it, I had to go get something from the pharmacy," said Lischynski. That "something" was an double dose of antibiotics.

"I only take (antibiotics) when I need to, I'm a firm believer if you take it too much, you can become immune to it," said Lischynski.

Believe it or not, those doctors who prescribe the antibiotics agree in limiting the amount you use.

"If someone comes in with a typical syndrome of 'I feel terrible I'm having aches, pains, and headaches, fevers, chills,' that's the flu- you don't need an antibiotic for that," said Dr. David Williams, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center.

How about the common cold?

"Most colds are viral and viruses don't respond to antibiotics," said Dr. Williams.

A program called "Antibiotic Stewardship Program" launched seven months ago at HCMC. It encourages doctors to be certain about their diagnosis using a new molecular diagnostic test, before they take out their prescription pad.

A new machine approved last week by the FDA for all labs, has been used at HCMC for about a year. It single-handedly speeds up the time a lab needs to figure out what's making patients sick. Previously it would take about two days to grow a culture to diagnose a patient. Now, doctors can find out what's wrong in about 90 minutes.

If an antibiotic is needed, Dr. Williams believes five is the new 10, meaning if patients can get by with only five pills, don't prescribe 10.

The Antibiotic Stewardship Program is already in full-swing at many Fairview Hospitals and Allina Hospitals. In fact, the program at Abbott Northwestern won a national award in 2011, and is being studied by the Centers for Disease Control.