Healthcare providers are major contributors to antibiotic overuse: 6 study findings

Variation in antibiotic prescription is driven more by providers than patients, according to new research from the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Here are six things to know about the study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which could be a helpful step toward understanding the problem of antibiotic overuse as it contributes to antibiotic resistance.

• Ten percent of physicians write an antibiotic prescription for nearly all patients with acute respiratory infections like a cold or bronchitis.

• The issue of overprescribing antibiotics for acute respiratory infections has been known for some time, and this study found 68 percent of all visits for such infections resulted in antibiotic prescriptions.

• The habits of individual providers accounted for 59 percent of the variation in prescription.

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• Differences in the routines of individual providers also drive variation in antibiotic prescription more than standards of practice at different hospitals or clinical settings.

• Despite the fact that guidelines recommend against broad-spectrum antibiotics as a first line of defense for respiratory infections, the researchers found a 10 percent increase in broad-spectrum antibiotic prescriptions between 2005 and 2012.

• Researchers conclude that understanding and improving provider decision-making surrounding antibiotic use could play a role in reducing overuse in the future.

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