Pneumonia impacts over four million people annually and is the leading cause of infectious disease-related hospitalization and mortality in the United States. Appropriate empiric antimicrobial therapy decreases hospital length of stay and improves mortality. The objective of our study was to test the hypothesis that the presence of an emergency medicine (EM) clinical pharmacist improves the timing and appropriateness of empiric antimicrobial therapy for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP).
This was a retrospective observational cohort study of all emergency department (ED) patients presenting to a Midwest 60,000-visit academic ED from July 1, 2008, to March 1, 2016, who presented to the ED with pneumonia and received antimicrobial therapy. The treatment group consisted of patients who presented during the hours an EM pharmacist was present in the ED (Monday-Friday, 0900–1800). The control group included patients presenting during the hours when an EM clinical pharmacist was not physically present in the ED (Monday–Friday, 1800–0900, Saturday/Sunday 0000–2400 day). We defined appropriate empiric antimicrobial therapy using the Infectious Diseases Society of America consensus guidelines on the management of CAP, and management of HCAP.
A total of 406 patients were included in the final analysis (103 treatment patients and 303 control patients). During the hours the EM pharmacist was present, patients were significantly more likely to receive appropriate empiric antimicrobial therapy (58.3% vs. 38.3%; p less than 0.001). Regardless of pneumonia type, patients seen while an EM pharmacist was present were significantly more likely to receive appropriate antimicrobial therapy (CAP, 77.7% vs. 52.9% p=0.008, HCAP, 47.7% vs. 28.8%, p=0.005). There were no significant differences in clinical outcomes.
The presence of an EM clinical pharmacist significantly increases the likelihood of appropriate empiric antimicrobial therapy for patients presenting to the ED with pneumonia.
The physical presence of clinical pharmacists in the ER was associated with more appropriate antibiotics according to this study, but we don’t know the nature of their involvement in treatment decisions. The HCAP designation used in the report is now considered obsolete and no longer recognized in the guidelines although it was appropriate for the time frame of the study. The major error in the control group was in categorization of patients as either CAP or HCAP. The strong implication is that pharmacists were better at diagnosing the type of pneumonia than the docs. There is something very wrong here.