Despite growing concern over the escalating antimicrobial resistance problem, physicians continue to inappropriately prescribe. It has been suggested that a major determinant of pediatrician antimicrobial prescribing behavior is the parental expectation that a prescription will be provided.
To explore the extent to which parental previsit expectations and physician perceptions of those expectations are associated with inappropriate antimicrobial prescribing; and to explore the relationship between fulfillment of expectations and parental visit-specific satisfaction.
Previsit and postvisit survey of parents and postvisit survey of physicians.
Two private pediatric practices, one community based and one university based.
Ten physicians (response rate = 77%), and a consecutive sample of 306 eligible parents (response rate = 86%) who were attending sick visits for their children between October 1996 and March 1997. Parents were screened for eligibility in the waiting rooms of the two practices and were invited to participate if they spoke and read English and their child was 2 to 10 years old, had a presenting complaint of ear pain, throat pain, cough, or congestion, was off antimicrobial therapy for the past 2 weeks, and was seeing one of the participating physicians.
Antimicrobial prescribing decision, probability of assigning a bacterial diagnosis, and parental visit-specific satisfaction.
Based on multivariate analysis, physicians' perceptions of parental expectations for antimicrobials was the only significant predictor of prescribing antimicrobials for conditions of presumed viral etiology; when physicians thought a parent wanted an antimicrobial, they prescribed them 62% of the time versus 7% of the time when they did not think the parent wanted antimicrobials. However, physician antimicrobial prescribing behavior was not associated with actual parental expectations for receiving antimicrobials. In addition, when physicians thought the parent wanted an antimicrobial, they were also significantly more likely to give a bacterial diagnosis (70% of the time versus 31% of the time). Failure to meet parental expectations regarding communication events during the visit was the only significant predictor of parental satisfaction. Failure to provide expected antimicrobials did not affect satisfaction.
The antibiotic resistance epidemic should lead to immediate replication of this study in a larger more generalizable population. If inaccurate physician perceptions of parent desires for antimicrobials for viral infections are confirmed, then an intervention to change the way physicians acquire this set of perceptions should be undertaken.