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Antibiotics and Telemedicine: Prescribing Some Much-Needed Data on the Topic

August 10, 2022

In this retrospective observational study of the top 5 diagnoses across nearly 56,000 patient encounters, Payvandi et al (10.1542/peds.2022-056209), in an article being early released in Pediatrics this week, describe antibiotic use during telehealth encounters (as compared to in-person encounters) within a large statewide primary care network in Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic from March 2020 to July 2021.

The authors find that there is variability in virtual antibiotic prescribing as a function of timing (how long since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic) and diagnosis category (ear, skin, respiratory, genitourinary, and Lyme disease). From a timing perspective, antibiotic prescribing for telehealth visits peaked early in the pandemic and decreased thereafter. This pattern was observed among all the diagnosis categories with the exception of Lyme disease, which appeared to have a peak early and later during the data collection period.

Looking forward, it would be helpful to learn what may be responsible for the increase in prescribing—particularly during the peaks in COVID-19 infections discussed in the article—as it may help to address the root causes and improve such behavior.

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