In Minnesota, doctors confronted by a patient demanding an antibiotic to treat a viral infection now have a new tool at their disposal. The Minnesota Antibiotic Resistance Collaborative (ARC) has distributed 10,000 “Minnesota Cough and Cold Care Kits for Adults” to clinics in the seven-county metropolitan area surrounding Minneapolis. The kits contain over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms of colds, including acetaminophen, decongestant tablets, cough suppressant syrup, tea bags, instant chicken noodle soup mix, a patient education brochure and a patient satisfaction reply card.
The Minnesota ARC was formed in May 2000 as an initiative of Minnesota’s three largest health plans: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, HealthPartners and Medica, along with Stratis Health, a health services research organization, and the Minnesota Council of Health Plans.
Greg Gilmet, M.D., chairs the Minnesota ARC. He explains the program was developed to reduce information overload.
“We realized the three health plans were trying to deliver the same message. We were all saying the same thing and delivering the message in triplicate to our providers. It struck me we could deliver one consistent message and deliver it better.”
The first packets were sent out in late November and have been well received by physicians and patients, according to Gilmet.
“I’ve had many positive responses from clinics, physicians, nurses and patients,” he said. “The main thing we’re trying to give is not so much the contents of the kit but the message: simply symptomatic care for a cough and cold.”
The 20,000 kits cost an estimated $4 per kit making the price tag for the program $80,000 for the twin cities area alone.
“We’ve had inquiries from other health plans locally and in other states,” Gilmet said. “We have clinics in parts of Minnesota that were not part of the program who have expressed an interest and want to be part of the program next year. We’d like to make [next year's program] bigger and better.”
Similar programs are in place to fight antibiotic overuse. The Wisconsin Antibiotic Resistance Network (WARN) was started in 1999 to educate physicians, day-care centers and the general public about the dangers of overusing antibiotics. The program is a joint project between Marshfield Medical Research Foundation and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health.
The WARN program uses cartoon creatures named Annie Biotic and Moxi Cillin to educate children and day-care workers about proper hand-washing technique, the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection, and other issues.
Information is distributed online and through four channels:
Brochures and posters are distributed to health departments, clinics and pharmacies.
Presentations are given to childcare workers at their centers and through the technical college system.
The public is targeted through media outlets, including newspaper editorials, news stories, and radio public-service announcements.
Community events are used as forums to make informational presentations.
WARN is funded through 2003 by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Educational materials distributed to the public stress the difference between bacterial and viral infections, and explain when an antibiotic is helpful and when it is not. In addition, physicians are given materials they can hand to a patient when they present with an upper-respiratory infection caused by a virus.