Simple Ways to Deter Improper Antibiotic Prescribing

Kevin B. O'Reilly | AMA Wire | November 22, 2016

Inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is a long-standing practice that once seemed benign but whose consequences are coming into sharper focus. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill at least 23,000 Americans annually and cause more than 2 million illnesses in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are some good ideas that can help physicians steer their patients away from antibiotics when they will do more harm than good.

Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH, has a few of them. He is associate professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and argues that the millions of antibiotic prescriptions inappropriately written each year for patients with acute respiratory infections (ARI) are not due to a shortage of knowledge among primary care physicians.

“It’s a behavioral problem and it’s a kind of social problem,” Dr. Linder said. “There is this weird psychology of the doctor assuming the patient is wanting antibiotics, and they don’t want to have this uncomfortable conversation where they have to deny things to people.” While most patients react well when physicians explain why an antibiotic prescription will not help, it only takes one or two who don’t to make a mark, Dr. Linder said...