Prescribing Antibiotics Does Not Save Time

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Am Fam Physician. 2006 Apr 1;73(7):1253.

Clinical Question: Does prescribing antibiotics for viral infections save time?

Setting: Outpatient (primary care)

Study Design: Cross-sectional

Synopsis: Many physicians fear that if they do not prescribe antibiotics they will lose patients to other doctors or they will have to spend time explaining to patients why an antibiotic is unnecessary. In this study, the authors used the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to evaluate the duration of visits for children presenting with colds or bronchitis. The survey, completed by physicians and office staff, included an item labeled “time spent with a physician.” The mean duration of the visits during which antibiotics were prescribed was 14.24 minutes; the mean duration of the visits when antibiotics were not prescribed was 14.18 minutes.

Other studies have demonstrated that patient demand, patient satisfaction, and the likelihood of switching physicians are not affected by the receipt of an antibiotic; however, prescribing antibiotics does increase the likelihood of subsequent drug-seeking behaviors.

Bottom Line: Prescribing antibiotics for respiratory infections in children does not improve patient satisfaction, does not save time, and does not affect the duration or severity of viral illnesses. (Level of Evidence: 2c)

Study Reference:

Coco A, Mainous AG. Relation of time spent in an encounter with the use of antibiotics in pediatric office visits for viral respiratory infections. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. December 2005;159:1145–9.

Used with permission from Shaughnessy AF. Prescribing antibiotics does not save time. Accessed online January 18, 2006, at: http://www.InfoPOEMs.com.

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