Patients Less Satisfied With Doctors Who Cut Back On Antibiotic Prescriptions


Researchers in England found patients are less satisfied with general practitioners (GPs) who prescribe fewer antibiotics. More than half of patients were incorrectly prescribed antibiotics to treat coughs, colds, flu and sore throat wherein the drugs are ineffective.

King’s College researchers analyzed over one million replies from the General Practice Patient Survey in 2012. They also procured data on 8,164 GP offices taken from the 2011 and 2012 Quality and Outcomes Framework. Lastly, they evaluated the National Health Service’s demographic characteristics and general practice data.

Out of 13 prescribing variables, high rates of antibiotic prescription (33.7 million recommendations for 53.8 million patients) proved the highest predictor of patient satisfaction. A GP office’s national satisfaction ranking drops by three to six-percentile point for each 25 percent decrease of antibiotic prescriptions. The research waspublished in the British Journal of General Practice on Dec. 7.

“These findings suggest that practices that try to help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by prescribing fewer antibiotics are likely to experience a reduction in their satisfaction ratings,”said researcher Dr. Mark Ashworth. Often, GPs find it hard to refuse a patient’s request for antibiotics. Ashworth added that GPs “feel pressured” to recommend antibiotics.

Small studies suggest dissatisfaction can be relieved when patients feel doctors have carefully examined their case. However, further studies are needed to confirm if this will help GPs in real world practices.

Royal College of General Practitioners vice chair Dr. Tim Ballard found the findings worrying. He expressed the need for a change in public perception. Patients must recognize that antibiotics will not work on antibiotic-resistant diseases, a scenario that leaves GPs with no other substitutes.

“It is frustrating that GP practices that are working hard to reduce inappropriate antibiotics prescribing face falling patient satisfaction ratings,” added Ballard.