Starship deploys app to combat antibiotic resistance challenges
Originally published on CIO
tarship has developed an app to make prescribing antibiotics for children smarter and more efficient for paediatricians, as antibiotics resistance becomes an increasingly global challenge.
Since launching in March this year, the Script for Paediatrics app has been downloaded by more than 1300 individuals including specialist paediatric clinicians, as well as emergency medicine front-liners and general practitioners.
It is already being used around New Zealand with downloads recorded from clinicians in every DHB in the country.
The app is the only paediatric-specific tool of its kind in the country and builds on Script, an antibiotic prescribing app for adults in use in the Auckland region.
“Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem worldwide and we are already finding that antibiotics we’ve used for years aren’t working anymore, so best prescribing practice is very important,” says Dr Sarah Primhak, Paediatric fellow from Starship’s Infectious Diseases Service.
“If we overuse antibiotics, or we prescribe antibiotics that are too broad when they’re not needed, then the bacteria that we’re trying to treat get used to those antibiotics and then they don’t work.”
It is particularly important that children receive appropriate antibiotics, with research showing around 97 per cent of children in New Zealand have had a course of antibiotics before they are five years old, says Primhak.
In addition to more targeted treatments, the app will also help make prescribing antibiotics more efficient. Where previously medical practitioners use a computer to check through multiple guidelines, the app is a portable, singular source of information.
“The clinician assesses and diagnoses the child fighting an infection in the normal way, then uses the app to pinpoint the antibiotic, dosage and length of treatment that best fits the child in front of them,” says Primhak.
Script for Paediatrics was developed at Starship with funding from Mercury.
Julia Jack, chief marketing officer at Mercury, says the company is excited to support an app that could play a big role in the long-term health of children.
“In the 20 years our customers have been supporting Starship, we’ve seen technology play an increasingly important role in the innovative projects Starship continues to deliver for children and their families,” says Jack.
The Script for Paediatrics app brings over 250 separate web-based guidelines together, feeding into multiple algorithms which map a path for users to identify the correct antibiotic and treatment plan.
This helps ensure the most targeted antibiotic is prescribed, avoiding unnecessary broad-spectrum antibiotics – an essential component to reducing antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Starship’s Paediatric Infectious Diseases Service worked with the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) when developing the app, drawing on current paediatric guidelines and accounting for the complexities of prescribing antibiotics to children.
A group of paediatricians at Starship and Middlemore Hospitals then trialled the app.
Starship is monitoring the impact of Script for Paediatrics to make improvements where possible by comparing antibiotic prescription behaviour before and after the introduction of the app.
Starship says it will also identify high user groups and allow for iterations based on human-centred design.