A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 10% of healthcare providers write an antibiotic prescription for nearly every patient (≥95%) who walks in with a cold, bronchitis, or other acute respiratory infections (ARIs).

Barbara Jones, MD, MS, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah and clinician at the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System, and colleagues, analyzed 1,044,523 patient visits for ARIs across 130 VA medical centers across the U.S. from 2005–2012. They found that providers prescribed antibiotics in 68% of the visits with a 2% increase over the eight year period. There was also a 10% increase in broad-spectrum antibiotic (eg, macrolides) use, although guidelines recommend against them as a first line of defense for most respiratory infections.

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The study also found that 59% of the variation on how antibiotics were prescribed was attributed to individual provider habits, 28% due to differences among clinics, and 13% due to differences in practice among hospital centers.

Findings from the analysis suggest that understanding and improving the clinician’s decision-making on antibiotic use is important in reducing antibiotic overuse in the future.

For more information visit Annals.org.