The CDC has launched a new electronic system that will enable hospitals to track antibiotic use and compare performance with other hospitals in efforts to curb growing rates of antibiotic drug resistance.

Previously, the agency was only able to track antibiotic use in primary care offices.

“This new system is a powerful tool that will enhance providers’ ability to monitor and improve patterns of antibiotic use so that these essential drugs will still be effective in years to come,” CDC director Thomas R. Freiden, MD, MPH, said in a press release.

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Antibiotic overuse and misuse can cause bacterial pathogens to become resistant, increasing a patient’s risk for developing an infection with limited to no treatment options. Other unintended side effects include increased risk for allergic drug reactions and increased susceptibility to Clostridium difficile infection.

Any hospital that participates in the National Healthcare Safety Network can use the antibiotic tracking tool by electronically sending data from drug administration records by working with pharmacy software vendors, and does not require manual data entry.

The announcement comes as part of the CDC’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a public health program to educated health care providers and consumers about appropriate antibiotic use.

Although educational efforts have decreased unnecessary antibiotic prescribing for colds and sore throats during the last decade, more than half of antibiotic prescriptions continue to be unnecessary.

“The threat of untreatable infections is real,” Arjun Srinivasan, MD, head of the CDC’S Get Smart for Healthcare campaign, said in a press release. “We are already seeing germs that are stronger than any antibiotics we have to treat them, inclusing some infections in health care settings.”

A list of pharmacy software vendors that are working with the CDC’s new hospital system is available at the Society for Infectious Disease Pharmacists website.