Contracted physicians prescribed antibiotics at higher rate, telemedicine study says

Third-party contracted physicians prescribed antibiotics at a higher rate over telemedicine than their affiliated counterparts, a study published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare found. 

The study, released in January, analyzed 257 telemedicine encounters related to acute respiratory infection between March 2018 and July 2019. Researchers found contracted physicians prescribed antibiotics in 37 percent of visits, compared with 18 percent of visits involving affiliated physicians. 

"Physician affiliation and familiarity with a health system, in addition to other factors, may be important in guideline adherence and antibiotic stewardship in direct-to-consumer telemedicine encounters," the researchers said .

Lead author Kathleen Li, MD, told MLive that overprescribing was a problem well before telehealth. 

"What this study highlights is not whether telehealth is more of a problem than in-person care," Dr. Li said. "It’s that the type of telehealth, or who is delivering the telehealth or how it’s delivered, can affect prescribing rates."

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