Urine cultures are nonspecific for infection and often lead to misdiagnosis of urinary tract infection and unnecessary antibiotics. Diagnostic stewardship is a set of procedures that modifies test ordering, processing, and reporting in order to optimize diagnosis and downstream treatment. This study aimed to develop expert guidance on best practices for urine culture diagnostic stewardship.
A RAND-modified Delphi approach with a multidisciplinary expert panel was used to ascertain diagnostic stewardship best practices. Clinical questions to guide recommendations were grouped in three thematic areas (ordering, processing, reporting) in practice settings of emergency department, inpatient, ambulatory, and long-term care. Fifteen experts ranked recommendations on a 9-point Likert scale. Recommendations on which the panel did not reach agreement were discussed in a virtual meeting, and a then second round of ranking by email was completed. After secondary review of results and panel discussion, a series of guidance statements was developed.
165 questions were reviewed with the panel reaching agreement on 104, leading to 18 overarching guidance statements. The following strategies were recommended to optimize ordering urine cultures: requiring documentation of symptoms, alerts to discourage ordering in the absence of symptoms, and cancelling repeat cultures. For urine culture processing, conditional reflex urine cultures and urine white blood cell as criteria were supported. For urine culture reporting, appropriate practices included nudges to discourage treatment under specific conditions and selective reporting of antibiotics to guide therapy decisions.
These 18 guidance statements can optimize use of the imperfect urine culture for better patient outcomes.