News & Commentary

More antibiotics prescribed over the phone


Telephone prescribing, it seems, has been on the rise. In one unnamed network of 19 primary care practices, the number of prescriptions for antibiotics given over the telephone jumped from 2.2 per 100 patient-years in 2006 to 4.2 in 2010, according to a study in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

Of the total 63,418 antibiotics prescribed in the network during this period, 7,876 were prescribed over the phone. The conditions for which antibiotics were most often prescribed were urinary tract infections, sinusitis, and various upper respiratory infections. Researchers say that “monitoring and feedback of telephone-based antibiotic prescribing rates will be essential to ensure high-quality care and minimize risk of antibiotic resistance.”

Researchers do not rule out that the increase in telephone prescribing might be a good thing. “The fact that 40% of our overall sample had had office visits within the prior week suggests that physicians may be appropriately delaying antibiotics and only prescribing when the patient calls back because they have failed to improve,” they write.

Prescribed antibiotics by indicated method (per 100 patient-years)

Source: Antibiotic Prescribing by Telephone in Primary Care, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, July 31, 2014.

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