Patient Care

Clinical Care Pathway for Cellulitis Can Help Reduce Antibiotic Use, Cost


Clinical question: How would an evidence-based clinical pathway for cellulitis affect process metrics, patient outcomes, and clinical cost?

Background: Cellulitis is a common hospital problem, but its evaluation and treatment vary widely. Specifically, broad-spectrum antibiotics and imaging studies are overutilized when compared to recommended guidelines. A standardized clinical pathway is proposed as a possible solution.

Study design: Retrospective, observational, pre-/post-intervention study.

Setting: University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Salt Lake City.

Synopsis: A multidisciplinary team created a guideline-based care pathway for cellulitis and enrolled 677 adult patients for retrospective analysis during a two-year period. The study showed an overall 59% decrease in the odds of ordering broad-spectrum antibiotics, 23% decrease in pharmacy cost, 44% decrease in laboratory cost, and 13% decrease in overall facility cost, pre-/post-intervention. It also demonstrated no adverse effect on length of stay or 30-day readmission rates.

Given the retrospective, single-center nature of this study, as well as some baseline characteristic differences between enrolled patients, careful conclusions regarding external validity on diverse patient populations must be considered; however, the history of clinical care pathways supports many of the study’s findings. The results make a compelling case for hospitalist groups to implement similar cellulitis pathways and research their effectiveness.

Bottom line: Clinical care pathways for cellulitis provide an opportunity to improve antibiotic stewardship and lower hospital costs without compromising quality of care.

Citation: Yarbrough PM, Kukhareva PV, Spivak ES, Hopkins C, Kawamoto K. Evidence-based care pathway for cellulitis improves process, clinical, and cost outcomes [published online ahead of print July 28, 2015]. J Hosp Med. doi: 10.1002/jhm.2433.

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