Pediatric telemedicine visits may lead to uptick in antibiotic overprescribing, study shows

Pediatric patients were more often prescribed antibiotics during direct-to-consumer telemedicine visits than during in-person urgent care or primary care appointments, according to research published in Pediatrics.

UPMC Children's Hospital Pittsburgh researchers contrasted antibiotic prescribing rates among pediatric patients with acute respiratory infections who underwent telemedicine visits to patients who had appointments at primary care offices and urgent care centers. Variables such as age, state and diagnosis were matched among the datasets. Researchers pulled information from a national health plan database that covers more than 4 million children in the U.S. annually and also works with a direct-to-consumer telemedicine vendor.

Results of the study showed pediatric patients received prescriptions during 52 percent of telemedicine visits, in comparison to 42 percent of urgent care visits and 31 percent of primary care provider appointments.

Study authors concluded that the differences in antibiotic prescribing found among pediatric patients were larger than differences found in similar analyses of adult telemedicine appointments.

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