Communication training and the prescribing pattern of antibiotic prescription in primary health care

Christoph Strumann, Jost Steinhaeuser, Timo Emcke, Andreas Sönnichsen, Katja Goetz


Background The treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) accounts for the majority of antibiotic prescriptions in primary care, although an antibiotic therapy is rarely indicated. Nonclinical factors, such as time pressure and the perceived patient expectations are considered to be reasons for prescribing antibiotics in cases where they are not indicated. The improper use of antibiotics, however, can promote resistance and cause serious side effects. The aim of the study was to clarify whether the antibiotic prescription rate for infections of the upper respiratory tract can be lowered by means of a short (2 x 2.25h) communication training based on the MAAS-Global-D for primary care physicians. Methods In total, 1554 primary care physicians were invited to participate in the study. The control group was formed from observational data. To estimate intervention effects we applied a combination of difference-in-difference (DiD) and statistical matching based on entropy balancing. We estimated a corresponding multi-level logistic regression model for the antibiotic prescribing decision of German primary care physicians for URTIs. Results Univariate estimates detected an 11-percentage-point reduction of prescriptions for the intervention group after the training. For the control group, a reduction of 4.7% was detected. The difference between both groups in the difference between the periods was -6.5% and statistically significant. The estimated effects were nearly identical to the effects estimated for the multi-level logistic regression model with applied matching. Furthermore, for the treatment of young women, the impact of the training on the reduction of antibiotic prescription was significantly stronger. Conclusions Our results suggest that communication skills, implemented through a short communication training with the MAAS-Global-D-training, lead to a more prudent prescribing behavior of antibiotics for URTIs. Thereby, the MAAS-Global-D-training could not only avoid unnecessary side effects but could also help reducing the emergence of drug resistant bacteria. As a consequence of our study we suggest that communication training based on the MAASGlobal- D should be applied in the postgraduate training scheme of primary care physicians.

ZeitschriftPLoS ONE
Seiten (von - bis)e0233345
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 01.05.2020

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  • Profilbereich: Zentrum für Bevölkerungsmedizin und Versorgungsforschung (ZBV)


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