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urgent care clinics antibiotics

urgent care clinics antibiotics

urgent care clinics antibiotics

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urgent care clinics antibiotics
urgent care clinics antibiotics

urgent care clinics antibiotics

How Often Do Urgent Care Clinics Offer Antibiotics When They Shouldn’t?

They are called urgent care clinics. Not antibiotic clinics.

But a team from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of Utah, and The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed insurance claims data and found that even when patients visited urgent care clinics for reasons that shouldn’t have required antibiotics, they still got prescribed antibiotics 46% of the time.

The results of this analysis appeared in a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The team consisted of Danielle L. Palms, MPH, Lauri A. Hicks, DO, Monina Bartoces, PhD, and Katherine E. Fleming-Dutra, MD from the CDC,  Adam L. Hersh, MD, PhD from the University of Utah.

and Rachel Zetts, MPH and David Y. Hyun, MD from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The medical and pharmaceutical claims data came from the 2014 Truven Health Analytics MarketScan Claims .

and Encounter Database, consisting of people younger than 65 years of age who have employer-sponsored health insurance.

Here is a chart showing some of the key results from the analysis:

As you can see, office-based clinics, retail clinics, emergency rooms, and urgent care clinics all have a fair amount of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing, otherwise known and antibiotic over-prescribing.

otherwise known as “come on, stop trying to use missiles when you are trying to get rid of a housefly.” However, urgent care clinics are the worst of the 4 settings.

And we’re not talking about a few extra prescriptions here and there. Of the 2.7 million urgent care visits in the database, 39% resulted in antibiotic prescriptions and 17% resulted in antibiotic-inappropriate respiratory diagnoses.

sample of urgent care clinic visits

Yes, the study does have its limitations

Claims data does not always completely reflect what is happening in real life at the clinics. It represents what insurance codes the doctor enters when seeing a patient.

However, the big picture is that doctors at urgent care clinics seem to be giving out way too many antibiotic prescriptions.

I have written in Forbes previously about how our society

You could say that doctors and nurse practitioners at urgent care clinics are giving out antibiotic prescriptions like candy, but doctors shouldn’t really giving out that much candy either.

Too many unnecessary antibiotics can lead to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, rendering the available antibiotic arsenal less and less useful when you really need antibiotics to save your life.

I have written in Forbes previously about how our society is running out of antibiotics and how super-scary, Thanos-like, untreatable strains of bacteria have been emerging because of antibiotic overuse.

This analysis shows that urgent care clinics may be a large

and overlooked source of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.

While more and more hospitals and continuity care clinics (meaning clinics where patients go to see their regular doctors) have specialists and programs that try to monitor .

and control antibiotic prescribing, it isn’t clear how many urgent care clinics do. Going to an urgent care clinic can be like playing doctor and nurse practitioner craps.

meaning the casino game and not the toilet one. You don’t know who you are going to see and what their experience, credentials, and practice patterns may be.

urgent care clinics antibiotics
urgent care clinics antibiotics

doctor or nurse practitioner

Moreover, a doctor or nurse practitioner who sees you only once briefly and has many other patients to see may be more inclined to over-treat you with antibiotics. He or she does not really know your medical history or life situation.

and won’t be able to follow-up with you. It may seem quicker and safer just to blast you with antibiotics just in case you have an infection that needs antibiotics. Ruling out an infection .

that requires antibiotics takes time and effort. Missing such as infection, even if it’s unlikely,

could result in a bad outcome or a lawsuit, something someone working in an urgent care clinic may want to avoid at all costs.

doctor or nurse practitioner

Also, a doctor or nurse practitioner in an urgent care clinic may be more likely to just give you what you ask for or want rather than what you really need.

Patients may go to urgent care clinics seeking antibiotics because unlike being told to get rest and fluids, taking a pill can seem like “doing something.”

With more and more antibiotic-resistant microbes emerging and spreading and a lack of enough new antibiotics being developed.

reducing inappropriate antibiotic use is an urgent problem. This latest study shows that it is also an urgent care clinic problem.

Nearly half the time?

Pew. That’s a lot of inappropriate and unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.

urgent care centers antibiotics

Urgent care facilities are able to prescribe medications, from antibiotics to pain medications and more.
regardless of whether you are seeing a nurse practitioner or medical doctor.
They will do what they can to ensure your health and safety.

Will the ER give me antibiotics?

In most cases, a visit to the emergency room or an urgent care center will result in a prescription for some painkillers and/or antibiotics. The emergency room staff will tell you to visit a dentist as soon as possible, and then hand you a bill.

Do urgent care clinics overprescribe antibiotics?

Urgent care clinics are convenient when you don’t feel well and can’t see your doctor right away.

But a study published online July 16, 2018, by JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who go to such clinics may be more likely to be given prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics.

Researchers analyzed 156 million insurance claims from 2014 and found that 46% of people treated at urgent care centers for viral conditions.

— like a bad cold, the flu, or viral bronchitis — were prescribed antibiotics. The problem: antibiotics kill only bacteria, not viruses.

The study underscores the need to ask health care workers if you have a viral or a bacterial condition before you take antibiotics.


urgent care clinics antibiotics
urgent care clinics antibiotics


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content.

Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria. It is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting bacterial infections, and antibiotic medications are widely used in the treatment and prevention of such infections.[1][2] They may either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria.

A limited number of antibiotics also possess antiprotozoal activity.[3][4] Antibiotics are not effective against viruses such as the common cold or influenza;[5] drugs which inhibit viruses are termed antiviral drugs or antivirals rather than antibiotics.

Medical uses

Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent bacterial infections,[12] and sometimes protozoan infections. (Metronidazole is effective against a number of parasitic diseases).

resource: wikipedia

urgent care clinics antibiotics
urgent care clinics antibiotics

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